14 February 2019

Thomas Brown XLH

The stories that I post about the unusually quick returns we do are well outnumbered by those cases that take years. This search commenced in 2010 when I was sent the British War Medal awarded to 1946 Driver Thomas Brown 10th Light Horse Regiment (later 4 Divisional Artillery Column) by the WA RSL. I have revisited it on four occasions and each time an extra clue has emerged but never enough information to finalise the search. A recent trip to Perth provided the opportunity to confirm some facts about Thomas Brown but more about that later.
From Thomas' service record it was easy to establish that he was born in Scotland and his NOK as his sister Margaret. I also had his 1916 residential address in the Perth suburb of Mt Hawthorne. However, his name was so common that without a middle name I got no where.
The first time I revisited this search I had just subscribed to Ancestry but the only advance I could make was to confirm the 1916 address from the electoral roll.
For the second revisit (2013) I focused on Thomas' sister Mary and found a family in the 1901 Scottish census that seemed to fit who I was looking for. The family consisted of father John (50), mother Margaret (40), Thomas (12, born in 1889 which aligns with the service record), sister Margaret (9) and brother James (5). However, still not having a middle name meant I couldn't narrow down exactly which Thomas I was looking for.
The third revisit (2016) was the one that provided the first real breakthrough. By trying multiple search variables in Trove I stumbled across this engagement notice.
This isn't conclusive proof that this 'T C Brown' was the one I was looking for but the mention of 10th Light Horse made it worth following up. I found the BDM marriage entry for a Thomas Charles Brown to May Elizabeth Russell and these names were confirmed in the electoral rolls. Just when I thought I had a clear way forward I hit a speed hump. The Karrakatta Cemetery records showed that May was buried in the same plot as Thomas Campbell Brown. Going back to the electoral rolls showed that from the 1930s he did use Campbell as a middle name. Still not 100% proof but worth a revisit in 2019.
The forth revisit opened up most of the story for me. I found a birth notice for Thomas and May's son Thomas Russell Brown.
Thomas Russell Brown served in WWII and using the electoral roll I established that he and his wife Nancy had two daughters Janine and Suzanne. Back on the Karrakatta Cemetery search site I found Thomas Russell and Nancy's burial plot site. While I thought I had the right family I still wasn't completely sure.
On a recent trip to Perth and tacked on as a side trip to a traditional family visit to Karrakatta Cemetery, Gail and I searched out the Brown plots. Firstly, we located Thomas Russell and Nancy's plot which confirmed their daughter's names. As can be seen in the picture the grave is in a neat, well manicured area.

Gail and I then trekked across the width of the cemetery to the Methodist section. The condition of this section was a real shock to us and I was concerned that there wouldn't be a readable headstone. I really wasn't expecting what I found next.
To my very pleasant surprise the grave I was looking for was marked with the proof I also needed. The name and regimental number all matched up.  
Even though I had confirmed all the facts I didn't have any leads on Janine or Suzanne. Not knowing if they had married and what their surnames might now be was going to be difficult to find.
While having coffee at Gail and Frank's breakfast bench I was flicking through the previous weeks editions of the Western Australian news paper. In the Monday edition I came across the 'Can You Help?' column which I have used in the past but forgotten completely about. I fired off an email to Jenny who for many years has edited this column.
My request to locate either Janine or Suzanne was published two Monday's ago but I didn't get any leads from it. That was until today when I received a call from Janine. A friend of hers had seen my story and passed on my contact details. I had a great discussion with Janine who remembers her grandfather really well.
Thomas' BWM has had a difficult life. The photos show the damage that has occurred to suspender and rim. I really don't think this matters as I can tell that Janine is very excited to to be getting this back in to her family.
Thanks to the WA RSL and also Jenny from 'Can You Help?'.
The returned medal tally in now 2309.

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