24 October 2019

Bruce Taylor DCM

The research for this return really wasn't that difficult, what sets this story apart from many others is the story of the soldier, the source the medals came from and who I returned them to this morning.
Just over a week ago I received an email from Elaine one of the co-founders of Canberra's Green Shed. I've established a fantastic relationship with Elaine over the years and returned several medals that have come to her via the Green Shed and that were then passed to me.
What Elaine recently gave me was a collection of WWI badges and trio of medals. What intrigued me immediately was a ribbon for a Distinguished Conduct Medal. Knowing that this medal has only been awarded to just of 2000 Australians between 1899 and 1972 I was keen to start the research. What concerned me a bit was the actual medal wasn't with collection that Elaine gave me.
It didn't take long to work out I was researching 528 Robert Bruce Taylor DCM, 21st Battalion AIF.  
Known as Bruce, he was 19 when he enlisted. However, he must have been a talented soldier as was he was promoted to Company Sergeant Major by the time he was 21. I found multiple stories about Bruce in the newspaper archives. Some of these I've added below. From these stories I learnt that Bruce was aboard the troop ship Southland which was the first troop ship carrying Australians that was torpedoed and sunk.
Bruce served at Gallipoli and then on the Western Front where he was wounded. I later was told that his wound leg bone was set wrong and this leg was shorter than the other so he walked with a limp for the rest of his life.
Bruce was easy to follow through the electoral rolls. As was his son Grahame who served in the Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers during the 1950. I was surprised to see that Grahame and his family lived in Canberra which would hoped would make my search for the current easy. The last electoral roll available on line which is from 1980, gave me the name of one of Grahame's sons - Gordon.
It took me a bit of time to work out that Gordon is in fact ABC journalist Gordon Taylor. Then came the hardest part - trying to get in touch with Gordon. I had to relay on some old fashioned technology; I picked up the landline phone, called the ABC switch and left a message.
When I spoke to Gordon we took a bit of time trying to work out how the medals came to be lost and why the DCM wasn't with what I was holding on to. Gordon did a check and soon found that he had the DCM which was great news.
This morning Gordon came to my work and I was able to return all his grandfather's items to him. He also bought along the DCM and I've added a picture of the complete group awarded to Bruce Taylor.
There are quite a few photos and newspaper articles that go along with this story but I felt is worth including them all.
Thanks go to Elaine and the Green Shed for trusting me to look for the Taylor family.
The returned medal tally is now 2416.

First is a picture of Bruce Taylor wearing his DCM


15 October 2019

Assistance to WA Police

This week’s Police assistance story is about an Operational Service Medal that was recovered in Mandurah WA. Katie from the local station contacted me with a service number, surname and initials. These details were from about 2000 as the service number was from the previous Australian Army sequence but it did have ‘F’ at the start which indicates the recipient is female.
Luckily I stumbled across the name combination in an ABN business report so I could narrow down a geographic location which is within 10 km from the Police station but it turned out the retired soldier
just disappeared from the records until I realised she was probably now married. That turned out to be exactly what happened and the company name from the ABN report provided the link to the correct name.
From there is was a case of providing the Property Officer the correct name and within 30 minutes it was confirmed I had the right person and she will pick up her medal tomorrow.
The returned medal tally is now 2412.

08 October 2019

Lone Pine KIA

So often we are unable to tell the full story of the life of a medal. There are just to many gaps from when the medal is lost until it is found and then sent on to either Bill or me. However, I think this time I can account of the full life of the Victory Medal awarded to 519 Private Bernard Joseph Bruton 3rd Battalion AIF.
Bernard was 19 when he enlisted in August 1914: an original member of 3rd Battalion. After training in Egypt, 3rd Battalion took part in the Gallipoli landings on 25 April 1915. I can only assume that Bernard went ashore that day as well.
The 3rd Battalion participated in the Battle of Lone Pine from 6 to 10 August 1915 and during this battle he was killed in action. However, he was initially announced as missing sometime between 7 to 12 August. Bernard was finally determined to have died by a Court of Inquiry that was held in the field in France on 5 June 1916. The evidence provided to the Court by a witness states that his body was seen on 6 August and that he was buried on 8 August at Brown's dip.
Now to the life of the Victory Medal. It was signed for by Bernard's father on 8 August 1922 and remained with the family. Lets skip forward to March 2019 when I received the medal from Joe D. Joe told me:

'Whilst putting my lawn in our newly acquired home over 40 years ago, I turned over an area of soil containing the remains of burned rubbish, as I shovelled it into a barrow I struck a piece of metal which turned out to be a WW1 Victory medal which I placed into a draw with bits and pieces that may one day come in handy. Recently whilst cleaning out the garden shed I came across the medal. This was at Newly Pl, Quakers Hill.'

I has taken me quite some time to work out the Bruton family tree and locate a relative of Bernard's but today I was in contact with Michael, Bernard's nephew. Michael asked me where the medal was found and I provided him what Joe told me. This all made sense to Michael who told me that 70 years ago the Bruton family lived on acreage that, after it was sub-divided, Newry Pl would have been in the middle of. The full life of Bernard's medal was now accounted for, although when it was on the ground, in what would become Joe's garden, it lived a hard life. As can be seen in the pictures the medal has lost it's ring and the edge is quite damaged.
The returned medal tally is now 2411.

07 October 2019

William Gorey

It would be really interesting to know the journey that this medal has been on since it was awarded in 1902. A bit more about that later.
This Queen's South Africa Medal was awarded to 174 Corporal William Gorey who served in the 2nd Battalion, New South Wales Mounted Rifles. The medal has 5 clasps including Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal, South Africa 1901 and South Africa 1902. William returned from South Africa with the rank of Sergeant. Along with the medal came two documents; a discharge certificate and performance report.
William was born in 1880 making him 35 years old when he enlisted for WWI in October 1915. However, within days William's wife Louisa had written to the Army objecting to his enlistment based on her not being able to survive and care for their children based on the allotment he provided for her. It looks like by early November 1915 he was discharged.
William was pretty easy to follow through the electoral rolls. I could work out his wife's name and that of their daughter, Alma Agnes who married Charles Stephen Leaver. From there things became a bit difficult. I followed one child of Alma and Charles but I've not been able to find the current generation's contact details. For the last 10 months I have hit one brick wall after another.
I revisited this search today and based only on the geographic location I suspected another child of Alma and Charles might have lived I cold called a number. To my surprise I ended up talking to the wife of William's grand son. I'll send this medal to back to the family shortly.
My part in the journey of this medal commenced in October 2018 when I received an email from the Chief of Navy who had the medal and asked me to search for the family. This search did take a bit longer than I thought but in the life of a medal that was awarded in 1902, the 10 months it took me to find the family is a relatively short period.
The returned medal tally is now 2410.  



04 October 2019

ADM from WA

Today it was my turn to assist the WA Police. The Armadale station had received an Australian Defence Medal awarded to a serving Army Reserve soldier. The Property Officer was referred to me by Peter J, a retired Police Officer of many years service.
It did take a bit of lateral thinking to work out who this soldier was but after an hour or so I had the contact details. I called this morning and was soon talking to Kelly R. She was very surprised when I told her the reason I was contacting her and then immediately asked if her 'other medal' was also recovered. Unfortunately not, but I've provided Kelly the details for how to apply for an official replacement.
Thanks to Peter J for connecting me with Julie.
The returned medal tally is now 2409.

03 October 2019

Tom's 5 WWII medals

Bill's latest assistance to the Victorian Police, which once again comes with a caveat that we can't provide much in the way of personal detail of the this WW2 veteran.

Tom was a teenager typical of his time. 23 days after his 19th Birthday he talked his father into letting him enlist. This was in late 1942 and the great adventure that was WWII began for Tom. Recorded issues for Tom included parcels sent to his unit for Christmas 1943 that were finally off loaded in March 1944 due to the need to keep diverting ships. There is no recorded history of what his unit thought of that. Nor of the several thousand shirts and trousers they off loaded only to be later told they were all too small.
Tom finally came home in November 1946 as a result of having low discharge points. This was a system which ensured that those who had served in a theatre of war the longest were demobilised first. The time between Japan’s surrender and his return was spent guarding Japanese POWs. Who, it is recorded, seemed to be able to get home quicker than the victors.
His medals are a story in themselves.
Found in a roof of a house undergoing extensive renovations. They were passed to the Victorian Police. How long the medals had been in the roof (a common hiding place once upon a time, when houses had manholes) I cannot say, Tom’s son in law cannot remember having seen the medals for almost longer than he can remember.
It has taken nearly 5 years to return Tom’s medals to his family. Electoral rolls, always a good research resource, went haywire at the time of the sale, coinciding as it did with the death of Tom and his wife. I even went to the point of having the Police visit the premises where I believed their daughter and son in law were living. While they did leave a message to be contacted they never were. The search was not helped by Tom’s daughter and her husband living well and truly on the outskirts of a small Victorian town. But as Glyn will always say when asked what does he do when he hits a brick wall “You try something different”. I followed this principal. It just took a lot of phone calls and a bit of detective work to get a result. You all need to get your haircut sooner or later, don’t you? There was no men’s hairdresser in town, not enough business. But there was a ladies hair salon. Which doubled for both men and women. It was here that I finally tracked down Tom’s son in law. Where he would, every six weeks or so drop by, from where he was now living with his daughter, Tom’s granddaughter, following the death of his wife.
Tom’s medals are now in trust with a grand daughter who will pass them to the next generation, when she thinks, as she said, they are old enough to understand what they mean.

The returned medal tally is now 2408.