20 December 2018

Tom Bird - WWII

Yesterday evening I received an email from a Property Officer at a Victorian Police station. He had been referred to me by a friend of mine, Rob who works at the Defence Service Center. The Victorian Police had received a group of WWII medals awarded to VX145248 SGT Thomas Bird
Thomas, who died in 1995, was rather difficult to find in the electoral rolls. Lucky his wife was a little easier to follow due to her name: Hilde Alma Amelia Bird (nee Pearce). The trail was pretty thin other than a 1977 electoral role entry for a Thomas Phillip Bird at the same address as Hilda. The 1980 electoral roll did not confirm my assumption that Thomas Phillip was Thomas and Hilda's son. However, to my surprise three entries below Hilda's name was a Thomas Phillip Bird at a different address but in the same suburb, this time with Agnes.
More searching led me to Thomas Phillip Bird's death notice from 2011. This confirmed that he was the son I was looking for. The death notice also confirmed that his wife's name was Agnes and the names of his children. I provided this information to the Property Officer but I was unable to give the latest contact details of Thomas Bird's grand children.
I sat on this overnight wondering how to make that final connection. This morning I had a closer look at Agnes and found her death notice from 2017. What this gave me was the funeral company who provided the conducted the service.
From there things moved very quickly. The Victoria Police Property Officer contacted the funeral director who in turn contacted Thomas' grandson and very soon after, he was on his way to the police station to receive the medals.
This all started with Frances speaking to Rob and ended with Lynda helping to put the final piece in place. Thanks to each of you.
The returned medal tally is now 2299.

Thomas Bird

18 December 2018

Medal to HMAS Sydney KIA

Growing up in Western Australia, I knew very well with story of the disappearance of HMAS Sydney during WWII (the full story are in the links below). The location of this ship remained unknown until 2008. To now return a medal awarded to one of the sailors lost on this ship is very moving. This is Bill's story of his research.

A question that Glyn and I are often asked by a family when we return a medal from a broken group is; “Do you think you will ever find the missing medals?”. My answer has been and probably will always be, ‘I don’t know’.
The search for the family of 23467 Seaman Morton James Morphett RAN, who was killed when the HMAS Sydney sank off the WA coast after a naval battle with the German Raider Kormoran, is one that ended with the same question.
This story begins in 2008 or thereabouts when Morton’s 1939-1945 War Medal was found in front of the Windsor (NSW) War memorial. The medal was found less its ribbon, which may explain how the medal came to be lost. Whoever was wearing it may have just pinned to a coat, relying on a safety pin to keep it securely in place. It didn’t. Over the last 10 years, this medal has passed through many hands. What they discovered along the way sadly was never recorded. There were times I felt more like an auditor than a researcher when I stumbled over the trail of someone who had gone before me. The major problem was where an auditor may have a complete set of records, mine were largely non-existent
Out of respect and at the request of Morton’s family, I have not include the details of the search.
This afternoon, after I have completed this story for our blog I will, as I have so often in the past, wander down to my local post office and mail off to Morton’s great nephew Craig, Morton’s medal. This will bring to close the beginning of the search for Morton’s medals. A search started by his brother Warren, who also served in the RAN during WW2, but who sadly died in 2011, and who had for many years searched for his brother’s medals, even wearing a set of replicas along with his own on ANZAC Day.

The returned medal tally is now 2293.


04 December 2018

James O'Donnell

I've mentioned before that any research relating to families from South Australia is difficult. This is because there are few public records available to access without paying a hefty fee. Other records like electoral rolls haven't been released to sites like Ancestry which, even though it is a pay for access site, helps to workout where people lived and who family members were. When I received this WWII group of 5 medals from Sharon G and saw they were awarded South Australian SX39977 James Richard O'Donnell I started to worry.
However, Ancestry did come through with a result and I found James included on a family tree. When I received a response from the tree owner the search got more interesting. Graham, the tree owner, had been researching James for a legal search rather than his own family history. Graham kindly made arrangements for the contact details of James' nephew, Terence, to be provided to me and we have now spoken. The medals will be returned to South Australia in the near future.
Sharon's name will come up in more upcoming stories as she sent me several medal groups. 
The returned medal tally is now 2292.