29 August 2019

John Harper

There really isn't much detail behind the WWI trio awarded to 2933 LCPL John Bartholomew Harper.
Before enlisting John was a Motor Transport Driver with the Sydney Harbour Trust. It was in this capacity he served in a supply company and then 5th Field Ambulance.
Tracking John after the war proved a bit difficult as he was often referred to by the hyphenated surname of Holder-Harper. Alternating between the two surnames did confuse the the search.
What I did find was that John married Mary Ellen O'Donnell in 1922, he died in 1969 and Mary in 1983. From Mary's death notice it was clear they had no children.
The search for descendants of John's siblings proved unsuccessful so I looked at Mary's family. Recently I was in contact with a lady who I thought might be Mary's great niece. This relationship was confirmed today so I'll be sending John's to Julie in the near future.
Thanks to Peter D who sent me the medals.
The returned medal tally is now 2385.

27 August 2019

Malcolm Wren Thatcher

This is the second return I've done after being given two lots of medals by my colleague Ben W. This link is to the first story which was relatively easy by comparison to the General Service Medal awarded to 1/3893 M W Thatcher.  
I went down several paths on the search and it took close to three weeks to come to a conclusion. The first path I followed was looking at the name Michael William Thatcher but the ages just didn't line up with someone who would have served in the Australian Army to be awarded a GSM with clasp Malaya. Thanks to Wayne W, a fellow researcher, who provided me with two gems; the correct name - Malcolm Wren Thatcher and date of birth - 19 February 1939.
The name Malcolm Wren Thatcher only appears in a limited number of public records, these are electoral rolls which end, on Ancestry, in 1980. These rolls showed that Malcolm worked as a station hand on several properties in southern NSW. I just couldn't find any information after this so I wondered if Malcolm had died.
Working on the other piece of information I had, Malcolm's date of birth, I searched the exact date in the newspapers on Trove. To my surprise I found a son born to Mr and Mrs D Thatcher on 19 Feb 39 in Queensland. I hen went down the path of tracing this family. I didn't have the exact name of this son but managed to find a relative of another sibling whose name I did work out. This relative had quite a distinctive name combination and I found him online. My message to him was soon answered but it was the wrong Thatcher family. Who would have thought that two boys with the surname of Thatcher would have been born of the same date?
I had to start over again but I just couldn't find any clues. I then turned to the Australian Genealogy Face Book group and posed the problem online. Karin M then provided the clue that finally sent me on the right path. Karin found a 1930 newspaper marriage notice for Milton Mervyn Thatcher and Mona Duval Wren. Milton and Mona lived in Tumut NSW which all made sense with Malcolm's address through the 1960s.
The next clue I found was Mona's headstone, which is pictured below. Mona died in child birth in 1941 leaving Milton with five young sons. This new information just led to more problems in the search.
Milton is mentioned quite a lot in the local Tumut newspaper, particularly in the 1920s and 30s. By all accounts he was a great singer and won several local talent contests. Milton was known as 'Winkie'. In 1946, Winkie married another Tumut local, Margaret Jean Roddy. He died in 1988 but his death notice in the Tumut and Adelong Times wasn't on line.
From Mona's headstone I got the names of Malcolm's brother's so I checked back the Tumut electoral rolls and worked out the full names. One was Peter Edward Thatcher who died in 2016. Similarly, Peter's death notice was available to view but the local church news letter noted his burial. I sent a email to the parish office and this morning I received a reply which pointed me towards Peter's family. Shortly after this I was talking to Liz who provided my Malcolm's phone number. He is still alive and living in Albury, NSW. I've now spoken to Malcolm who can't recall how he lost this medal but was quite emotional o hear that it would returned to him.
This was a difficult search but I was really assisted by Wayne, Karin and Ralda. Thanks to Ben and his dad for trusting me with this search.
The returned medal tally is now 2382.

20 August 2019

Ray Thompson

In the past I've done a return for Daryl B which must have been satisfactory to him as Daryl called me recently about another set of medals that had come his way. I collected the WWI British War Medal and Victory Medal awarded to 388 Charles Raymond Thompson yesterday and have now been in touch with Ray's great nephew.
Ray was a member of the 22nd Machine Gun Company having enlisted aged 25 in 1916. By March 1917, Ray had spent time in England to do further training then proceeded to France with his unit. On 14 September 1917, Ray was killed in action. His body was never recovered so he has no know grave. Ray is commemorated at Menin Gate.
Ray was the son of Charles Gordon Thompson who was the first school teacher at Cobram, Victoria. Charles was very well regarded in the community so on his untimely death in 1909 the published obituary gave me lots of clues about the Ray's siblings. I was then able to follow the family through to the 1980s but ran out of clues from the electoral rolls. Although, I did have one distinctive name to work with. This name led me to a company in Melbourne so I sent off a speculative email. Very shortly after this I received a reply from Geoff, Ray's great nephew. As it turns out Geoff had recently retired from this company but the thoughtful staff member passed him my email.
Ray's service record makes interesting reading. There are several letters from Ray's mother to Army seeking information about the possibility of Ray's remains being located. The replies must have been heartbreaking for Ray's mother.
Quite a bit of luck went my way with this search. This included prompt replies to Ancestry messages that I sent, which don't always occur, quite distinctive middle names across several generations and a Geoff's thoughtful colleague. The best outcome is that Ray's medals will soon be returned to his family.
The returned medal tally is now 2381.


07 August 2019

Michael Feeney

This is a great story that covers three generations of Australian servicemen.
It starts with 380 Michael Joseph Feeney a 22 year old Irishman who enlisted in 1916 having emigrated to Australia in 1912. Michael served in the 4th Division Motor Transport Company, Australian Army Service Corps.
Following WWI, Michael settled in Rockhampton. He enlisted again, at the age of 48, in the Army, this time during WWII and served in the Volunteer Defence Corps. Older men were used for home service in WWII so that younger men could be released to fight overseas and Michael did his part. For his WWII service, Michael was awarded two medals. 
These medals were purchased at a garage sale in Townsville 25 years ago by Jayson who mentioned them to Army PR soldier SGT Dave Morley. Dave passed he medals to me this morning and it didn't take long to find the second generation serviceman.
In the electoral rolls I found Michael, his wife and their son. This was Brian Michael Feeney. As I followed Brian it soon became apparent he was in the RAAF and in the late 1970s was living in Canberra. The 1977 roll gave me Brian's son's full name, which is quite distinctive. This is Chris, and the 1980 electoral roll listed his address as 6 RAR, Gallipoli Barracks. Here is the third generation. On a hunch I had a look on the Defence internal phone directory and sure enough I found Chris who is still serving in the Australian Army. 20 minutes after receiving Michael's medals from Dave I was talking to Michael's grandson. Chris tells me that he has never seen the WWII medals and has no idea how they came to be at a garage sale. Chris has been looking for Michael's WWI pair of medals for many years but there whereabouts remain a mystery.
Thanks to Jayson for wanting to see the medals returned to the family and to Dave for connecting me with Jayson.
The returned medal tally is now 2379.