This story from Bill demonstrates the lengths we go to in our research.
The British War Medal awarded to 4989 Private William George Carroll first came to light in 1963. Since then it has lain at different times in various drawers. In April 2016, I was contacted by Peter to see if I could help in finding William’s family. Peter had, as he admitted, run out of ideas and places to look.
However, because of the manner in which the medal came to Peter and the details of William’s family, to whom the medal is being returned, I have edited the details of the search.
Private William Carroll was killed in action on the 3rd May 1917 when his Infantry Battalion, the 17th, took part in the Second Battle of Bullecourt. William’s body, like so many during the First World War, was never recovered. He is commemorated at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra and on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial.
With a family of 5 brother and 6 sisters my initial expectation is that surely there must be a paper trail. I should have known better, there wasn’t.
The search starting with the eldest of his siblings, his sister Elsie, and ended to his youngest brother Matthew. At every step I hit the proverbial brick wall. Matthew, or to be more specific Matthew Maurice Carroll, was the only one I could effectively track down. Matthew served during WW. His sister Alice, now Mrs Alice SEAL, was initially identified on his service papers as his next of kin. Also shown was the name of his wife, Sylvia, and an address in Adelaide. This address is now a shopping centre, which ended another line of search. However, his service file had his date of death recorded, 2 Oct 1983.
My search started again and finally ended with David, who with his family will in August walk the fields of France, in memory of William and his comrades.
I do not know who sums up William’s passing more eloquently his family who wrote in the:
Sydney Morning Herald 29 May 1917
CARROLL_Killed in action. May 6, 1917 In France, Private William George Carroll late of Lithgow.
Somewhere In France they have laid him.
My son so brave and true
He fought for our freedom and liberty.
And died 'neath the Red White and Blue.
Inserted by his sorrowful mother Margaret Carroll, and father (on active service) sisters, and brother.
(William’s father Thomas was at the time his son was killed also serving in the AIF overseas).
Or David, who wrote to me in reply:
“I'm a tad teary. He was too young to die, and was so far from home.”
William’s BWM, as you can see, has lost its suspension bar, a not uncommon happening. The bars were made of silver, and too soft to carry the weight of the medal. Also sadly during the great depression, many of those who served and there widows, had to resort to breaking off the suspension and selling it for its silver.
However, David already has plans in progress to deliver the medal to a restorer. When this is done we will post a photo of the ‘repaired’ medal.
The returned medal tally is now 2100.