20 May 2017

Collective success

Anzac Day has become over the years, to Glyn and I, an incredible mix of requests for help to return militaria, not just medals. At the request of the families involved, we often have to self-censor our research. This is even to the point of identifying the family relatives involved firstly, in the loss and secondly, in the recovery.

The first story is about the letters of 407090 Flight Lieutenant Alexander Henry Hooper. Letters written while flying as a navigator on bombing runs over Europe during WW2. Ron W requested help to return them to Alexander’s family. This has now been done. I was fortunately to get a copy of the letters one of which stood out as it described Alex’s 17th mission over Germany. The ‘Big One’ as he called it.

Then came the return of the Mothers and Widows badge issued on behalf of VX119123 S/Sgt James R. York. Judith found this item and wanted to return it to James’ family.

Then, of course, are the requests via the RSL Clubs network for help in returning the many medals that have turned up and have been handed in as a consequence of Anzac Day. The RSL officials are often prompted on Anzac Day to get those boxes out, take out the medals that have been sitting there for several years now and return them.

Gordon’s AASM 1945-1975, that he thought was gone for good, is one example of this. But as he said in his email to me: ‘The Active Service Medal that I lost, was found & I got back due to the thoughtfulness of nice people with the support of the RSL ! The Anzac spirit is well &truly alive! ! Tks Bill’

And Deb F who has now been christened by the family of 56057 Sgt. Keith Gordon Sharpley as the Agatha Christie of Tasmania. Well done Deb, I’m glad I could help.

And finally Jenn one of researchers from the Australian Surnames Genealogy Group, who when asked to follow up on a small Engraved Silver Tiki. Really went to town. Her unedited story is below:

At the Anzac Day Dawn Service here in Bacchus Marsh - a friend of mine (who is a member of the local SES sand was cooking the free breakfasts of bacon, eggs and sausages) handed me a silver Tiki WWII keepsake that she and her husband had found amongst coins donated to the local SES. On the back was engraved the above name and service number. She asked how she could go about finding the family to return it to. She trusted me to take it and so I set about tracking this family.

Would you believe there were two Ronald William MILES born about 9 years apart in NEW ZEALAND – the first Ronald William MILES was born in 1912 in WELLINGTON NZ and lived there his whole life - he was in the Airforce. The other Ronald William MILES was born in 1921 and lived around the AUCKLAND and then  ROTORUA – he was in the Army. The difficulty was that the NZ WWII Service Records are not available on line – so there was no way of checking or matching either of their Service Numbers, however I felt confident that the Ronald William MILES b. 1912 who was in the Air Force was the correct man and the owner of the silver Tiki.

Ronald William MILES married Louise Elspeth CLARK on 8th November 1941. He died on 20th November 1983 – his wife Louise had predeceased him in February 1983 – they are both buried in the KARORI Cemetery in Wellington.

The parents of the WELLINGTON Ronald William MILES were Arthur Herbert MILES and Louisa HANDLEY. Arthur was a Captain in the NZ Army and he died quite young in 1925 aged 35 years.

I found a tree on Ancestry which had lots of photos of this family – so made contact with the tree owner. She passed my contact details on to another researcher whom she had helped to identify the people on numerous family photos. He emailed me and gave me the names of their three sons, one born in 1945, another in 1950 and the third in 1951 – they are all living.

Next it was the white pages on line – and I listed all the possible MILES with the same initials as the three sons – only found 7 possible listings for two of the sons. I rang the one in WELLINGTON – but it was not a relative. The second call turned up the eldest son – John William MILES b. 1945. He was over the moon with excitement as we confirmed that I had the correct son of the correct Ronald William MILES. He knew nothing of the silver Tiki – our best guess is that his father’s wife or mother may have given it to him when he went away to war.

I advised him that the Tiki would be posted back to him next week by the lady who had found it.
Don’t you love these happy endings.

The returned medal tally is now 2099

 Gordon's AASM
 The Sharpley medals

The Miles tiki

15 May 2017

Lawrie Fox

I was really perplexed when I recently received these medals from the NSW RSL. A WWII war medal and three US medals which have been professionally mounted so someone has gone to the effort to have the group made up.
This afternoon when I spoke to the nephew of NX58842 Laurence Francis Fox I finally understood what this group represented. Lawrie Fox enlisted in July 1940 but discharged within seven months. Lawrie enlisted to be with his brothers who were already serving. More about them later. He got through his training but when he arrived in Brisbane it was discovered he had rheumatic fever. This resulted in his discharge but while in Brisbane, and still wanting to serve, he joined the US Merchant Marines. This explains the single War Medal as his sole Australian entitlement and the addition of the Pacific War Merchant Marine, WWII Merchant Marine medal and the Philippine Liberation Medal. Lawrie didn't marry but did tell his nephew, Tom, many stories of his war time escapades.
Now back to Lawrie's brothers. The first to enlist was Ted who died of illness while a POW in Jan 1945. I've managed to find Ted's enlistment photo which is below. Also serving was Graham Fox.
Thanks to Lindsay from the NSW RSL for sending these medals on to me.
The returned medal tally is now 2092.

14 May 2017

Claude Gerdes

Another story from Bill's 'watch this space' series. 

48 PTE Claude Henry Gerdes was an original member of the 11th Battalion having enlisted on 26 August 1914, less than a month after war was declared.
Claude was drowned of Maroubra Beach in 1921. The fishermen who found his body left it and went to get the police. When they returned the tide had taken the body and it was never recovered.
Claude’s 1914-1915 Star came to me from Bruce, who had found it in a garage down at Mornington in March of this year. How long it had been there neither he nor I could work out, let alone try to guess.
Sadly after surviving WWI, Claude was drowned of Maroubra, NSW in 1921.
Out of respect and at the request of his family I will say no more. His 1914-1915 Star is ‘home’.
The returned medal tally is now 2088.

Post up date - 30 May 17
These photos have been provided by Claude's family with the following description:
'Claude posted both photos of himself to Margaret being his sister Margaretta Energy Larsen (nee Gerdes) who was his NOK at the time of his Service'.

09 May 2017

Owen Scholes

When Bill sent me this story he prefaced it with: ‘this is an odd one’.

We are all familiar with mail that goes astray. But how the medals of N205912 Lance Corporal Owen Geoffrey Scholes, posted in NSW, by Owen’s wife, Mary to her grandson also in NSW, ended up in South Australia, is a mystery. Neither Carol Foster of the South Australian RSL, Owen’s family nor I have any idea want went wrong with the post.
What is important, is that Carol stepped up and rather than leave them in a box in a drawer where things that are too hard are often consigned, she chose to do something about it. It has taken over two years to finally re-unite Owen’s medals with his family.
But today the process to unite the family with ‘Dad’s’ medals began. It all started with the following words in an email:
‘Carol, say hello to Margaret the daughter of Owen and Mary Scholes.
Margaret, say hello to Carol Foster, the SA RSL, Sub-Branch Liaison Officer, and to whom you family owes a debt of gratitude, for it was Carol who stepped up. And with whom I have had the honour of working with to return your father’s medals’.

The returned medal tally is now 2087.