15 September 2020

William Molloy

Bill is on a roll this week.

The search for the family of  Private William Molloy Regimental Number 3876, started on a road in NSW, when a passing motorist stopped to investigate a wallet lying on the road side. Inside the wallet were two WW1 medals of a Private William Molloy, a copper Maltese cross, two photos and of all things a WW1 Soldiers pay book.

The first question after an initial search for Bill, was that how did a soldier who died in 1957, and whose wife passed away in 1987, come to be on a NSW highway in 2019. And at that point I will stop the discussion on how it got there. I will leave that for the next generation of historians.

So now it was back to Bill and his family. By now if you are a regular reader of the blog, your first thought would be ‘the family tree’. And Bill did have an impressive family tree. At least until the on-line Births, Deaths and Marriages ran out. Then it was back to newspapers and an incredible stoke of luck. Many of the newspapers I needed to follow the family were not locked up behind the barrier that Newspapers have now erected where if you need to access information where once it was free, must now be paid for. Despite this, it was the Ryerson Index that gave me the death details of John Molloy, Bill’s brother. However, death notices are not always as helpful as sometimes one imagines, particularly when 12 of the 13 names mention in the introduction to a death notice are noted being deceased.

After all that, Bill’s medals are now ‘home’ with his great nephew, John, who with his family, who now have the responsibility of caring for and keeping the medals in trust.

The returned medal tally is now 2528.







13 September 2020

REED or REID?

This is Bill's latest success. Even though all the details can't be told, Bill has manage to weave a story which also shows the frustrations these searches can cause. 

Ever thought of how many variations you can get in the spelling of a name? The return of Frank’s medals is in a way, a good but simple example.

It is over three years since his medals along with his Australian Legion of Ex-Servicemen and Women badge and Blood Donors badge, were discovered in a collection of clothing and household goods passed in to a Salvation Army Op-Shop’. And it is almost 18 months since I received them.

The search began as so many of our searches do, from  his entry in the Australian War Memorials WW2 Nominal Roll. Then to the Victorian, Births, Deaths and  Marriages, and here the first discrepancy arose. Frank’s AWM, and National Archives entries all showed him as having been born in 1919, the 16th February 1919 to be exact. But there was no entry for a Frank Edward REED in 1919 or 1920. Or even before, in the Victorian Government on line ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’.

So did he put up his age to enlist, or put it down? Adding to the confusion was that there no details of Frank’s passing with Australian War Graves. Then it was to the newspapers looking for Funeral notices for a Frank Edward REED. But was this ‘our Frank’? To answer this question, it was necessary to develop a family tree and either fit Frank into it, or ‘it’ to Frank. First was to find his father, John and his marriage, well all of the men named John REED who had married in the 20 years before Frank’s supposed birth, in Country Victoria. Then came the plodding part. Looking at all of the John REEDs who had married in that time frame, and there were 15 who ‘fitted the bill’ as it were.

Then to look at children born to the couples. Quickly John Richard REED and Christina Ellen HICKINGBOTHAM stood out. Three of their children had been born in Yea, Victoria. It was in Yea that Frank’s records showed he had been born. But there was no Frank Edward REED born up till 1920, in Yea or anywhere else. It was then back almost to the beginning. 

It was here I ‘discovered’ that a Frank Edward REID had been born in 1919 in Yea to a John and Christina REID, as had a Ronald Richard REID in 1917. Stepping aside as it were I followed up on both. It transpired that both Frank and his brother Ronald had married as ‘REED’, their father’s Surname. So why was the records never corrected? “Yes why”? 

Sadly Frank’s wife had predeceased him, their only daughter dying three years later in 2005. So again then it was off at a tangent. If Frank and Mary’s house had been sold and it would have been after the death of their daughter. Who sold it? Enter  a ‘Good Fairy’ from a local real estate Agency, who handled the sale. Who took it on to contact the sellers.

Two weeks ago on my Saturday walk, I detoured to ‘Jenny’s’ and passed her Uncle Fred’s medals. I also left her with the responsibility to ensure that they would be passed on to the next generation to be kept in trust. The family may not be so lucky if they should be lost for a second time. 

When I sat down with a friend recently, and detailed the search. Other than a “well done, Batman”. His main interest was that I had wandered all over the place in my search. I agreed. But with the current restrictions here in Victoria, many of the traditional research facilities are closed. The only option left was the ‘scatter gun’ approach. Searching on many fronts at the same time, waiting for results then attempting to draw those results into the one frame. But this is a path that must be followed if medals are to go back to the recipient’s family. And not just the easy option of anybody who knew the original recipient.

As for his other question “Well where have they been for 15 years”? All I could say was “Dunno Robin, dunno”.

 

 The returned medal tally is now 2526.

12 September 2020

George Welsh

 

A great story from Bill who had far more input in to the return that he has portrayed below. Well done Bill.

 

It never ceases to amaze me where medals turn up from. In the case of Cpl George Arnold Welsh’s 1939-1945 Australian Service Medal, it was found under the carpet of a second hand car that was being prepared for sale.

It will now take its rightful place in George's medal display replacing the replica that has filled in for it.

This return owes much to Mr Bahr one of the Trustees of the Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial, Ballarat, to whom the medal was originally passed by the finder.

 

The returned medal tally is now 2524.


Medal return:  Barry Welsh (left) (son of CPL George Arnold WELSH) accepting the return of the original Australian Service Medal 1939-1945 from Bill Bahr Trustee of The Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial

Huntley Lindsay

Three WWII medals awarded to 253523 Flight Lieutenant Huntley Edward Lindsay came to me from the WA Police Force. Huntley was from a prominent family in the Greenbushes area of WA. I found several newspaper articles about Huntley from the 1930s but very little about his RAAF service during WWII or in the years following the war. 

I had to put a lot of fragments of information together and then make some assumptions about Huntley's family construct. Once I got to what I assumed was the solution I was able to retrace my research steps and satisfy myself that I had a 95% answer.

Huntley had a daughter, Suzette, who attended Methodist Ladies College in Claremont. She finished high school in 1963. My family will realise the MLC connection although Suzette started at MLC after Gail had finished. It took quite a bit of searching to narrow down that Suzette married Keith Moylan but after 1980 the trail went very cold. Eventually I found Suzette's death notice which gave the first names of her daughter and son. However, even this information didn't lead to immediate success. The only trace of Suzettte's son that I found was on a closed Face Book ocean yacht race page. By pure chance, a friend of mine is a member of the same closed group so I asked for a message to be passed to Huntley's grandson. I received an email overnight confirming the connection and was pleasantly surprised to find out that the grandson's middle name is Huntley. 

There are two other aspects of this search that are worth noting. The medals were issued in the 1970s. This can be determined by they way they are hand engraved rather than impressed. This was standard for RAAF medals that were issued in that time period. Secondly, Huntley's elder brother, Norman William John Lindsay was killed in action at the Somme on 24 July 1918. 

Thanks to Ian G who passed my message to the Moylan family. The returned medal tally is now 2523.




31 August 2020

Keith Raymond Bird - National Serviceman

This search turned out to be far more difficult than I thought it would be at the start. The Australian Defence Medal awarded to 2747146 Keith Raymond Bird was sent to me by Ted Ayres having been recovered from a pawn brokers. Keith was pretty easy to find in the Nominal Roll of Nashos then track through the electoral until 1980. The Nasho roll showed me that Keith had died but beyond 1980 I had no clues.

From a quite lengthy story from a newspaper social page I found all the details of Keith's marriage to Patricia Waites. The story also gave me the name of Keith's brothers. One was Harold (Mick) Gregory Bird who was soldier in the Royal Australian Engineers. Mick spent many years posted to Puckapunyal and after he discharged remained in Seymour. Mick also serve in the Vietnam War. However, after 1994 I lost the thread of Mick's family.

For six weeks I kept coming to a brick wall so on Sunday I went back to Keith and Patricia's marriage story. This also provided the names of Patricia's parents; John and Mary. In the hope of something new I went back to the electoral rolls of the 1950s and found that John's first wife was actually Catherine who died in 1956. Mary was his second wife. I then found Catherine's death notice which gave me the name of their another child; Brian.

From there it was pretty easy. I found Brian in the electoral rolls and then in the White Pages. I called Brian this afternoon and found that Patricia had also passed away but, more importantly, the name and phone number of Keith and Patricia's daughter; Cathy. 

Cathy tells me that she is named for her grandmother Catherine which I think is a nice link as it was the details of Catherine which unlocked this search.

The returned medal tally is now 2520.





30 August 2020

James Egan

This is a set of circumstances that I haven't come across before. It is an act of mate ship that spanned decades.

The medals awarded to NX113237 James Christopher Egan came to me via the Directorate of Honours and Awards having been sent in by the son of one of James' mates. The letter that accompanied the medals says that James' was the friend of John Hinton and they fought together in New Guinea. James had no known close relatives and James left his medals with John. Knowing the importance of medals to a family, John's son forwarded them to Honours and Awards and then on to me.

James' did not marry but he had several siblings. His brother was NX24165 William Edward Egan, one sister was Margaret Josephine (Joey) Ball and the other was Grace Catherine Macintyre. Like James, William didn't marry. It is through Joey's family that the medal will be returned.

The returned medal tally is now 2519.




       



21 August 2020

Lancelot Matthews - WWI

Following a property search, the Victorian Police recovered three WWI medals, a set of dog tags and numerous badges. Senior Constable Mikael H contacted the Directorate of Honours and Awards and Wes M referred him to me. 

The medals were awarded to 360 Lancelot Matthews who served in the 8th Battalion, AIF. This search was a bit confusing to start with as Lancelot's full name was Lancelot Vivien Matthews. The records sometimes gave the name as Vivien Lancelot or spelt Vivian. However, Lancelot never used his middle name. Lancelot was born in 1890 and was a farmer in Gippsland. He was 23 years old when he enlisted. This was the first piece of information I could find about Lancelot after WWI.

Following WWI he returned to farming and in 1928 married Edith Frances Harris. Lancelot and Edith had two daughters, Edith Ann and Judith Vera. I've added screen shots below from the Victorian BDM website which helped me unravel all the conections. Lancelot died in 1936. 'Smith's Weekly' paper published Lancelot's death in their 'Gone West' column. 

This is the probate notice published after Lancelot's death.

Edith died in 1957.


I found that Edith Ann married Kenneth Ophel. This led me to an Ophel family tree on Ancestry. The tree owner is Kerry and she was able to put me in touch with Edith and Kenneth's son, James. I've now connected James and Senior Constable Mikael. Pictures of Lancelot's medals, dog tags and all the other badges are below.

Thanks to Kerry and Wes for their part in this return. The returned medal tally is now 2515.










 


16 August 2020

G C O'Toole

This search was reasonably straight forward, the direct opposite to the tragic family story behind the medal. 

My part in this started story on Friday when I received an email from Matt I who had the ASM 1939-45 awarded to NX37254 Glen Connell O'Toole. I only found three public records relating to Glen. The first was his birth record on the NSW BDM site, the WWII nominal roll entry and one electoral roll entry from 1954. A comparison of the BDM and WWII records show that Glenn put his age up by two years in order to enlist. More importantly, the BDM entry gave me his parents names. Using that information I worked out that Glen had four brothers and a sister. Glen didn't marry and the only descendants of any of his siblings are the sons of his sister Hazel.   

This afternoon I spoke to  Glen's nephew Robert, who tells me that Glen and his brothers suffered as a result of their war service but this is only part of a tragic family story. During my research I found that Glen's father, John Martin O'Toole, died in an accident in 1922 when he fell 120 ft down a coal mine shaft. Glen was 3 years old when this happened and two siblings were younger still.

As well as the story of the accident, there were many stories about his wife's efforts to get compensation. She eventually received 500 pounds but it must have been very difficult to raise six children on her own.

Thanks to Matt who contacted me about Glen's medals and to Robert who gave me more background on the O'Toole family. The returned medal tally is now 2512.


 

08 August 2020

215 AB Edward O'Connell - NSW Naval Contingient 1900

This search has been one of the longest and most difficult searches I've done. I received the China 1900 Medal awarded to AB E O'Connell in 2002. This has been a difficult search as, in the early phases, so little information was available. Over the years I have revisited this search often and each time I've got a scrap more of information that has made up the complete story. Not knowing what the E of the first name stood for didn't help and it is only recently that I've confirmed that his first name was Edward.

This is the only China 1900 Medal I've come across and it is worth spending a bit of time exploring why the medal was awarded. 

In 1900 several International Legations in Peking were placed under siege by Chinese Boxer rebels who were protesting foreign intervention and the spread of Christianity in China. The film 55 Days in Peking tells the story of this rebellion. To defend the Legations an Eight Nations Alliance was formed. This all occurred just prior to the Federation of Australia and military forces were based on colonial arrangements. Similar to the contingents sent by the colonies to the Boar War, the colonies offered their naval forces in support of Britain. By the time the colonial navies arrived the main actions were over. When the colonial contingents returned to their colonies, Federation had occurred and Australia had been formed. For their service, the contingents were awarded the China 1900 Medal. The numbers of medals awarded to each colony were: NSW 257, Victoria 198, South Australia 98 and Queensland 1. 

Early in the research I found that E O'Connell was 215 Able Seaman E O'Connell and even found his picture as part of the company he was in.

Even though I could confirm that E O'Connell served in this conflict and was awarded the China 1900 Medal the medal itself concerned me. The naming on medal consists of Initial, Surname, Rank, UNit (NSW Naval Contgt). The rank and unit are exactly as expected but the name is crudely engraved. By running my fingers over the rim it is easy to feel that the rim at the site of the name is thinner than the rest which suggests that the edge has been skimmed to remove the original name and E O'Connell added. It is hard to see the thickness of the rim in these pictures but I've circled the area.






Additional information that I've found over the years was the published list of men in the NSW Naval Contingent as they departed and then when they were awarded the medal.


 It wasn't until recently that I found that O'Connell was also awarded the Reserve Naval Long Service and Good Conduct Medal in 1914. Below is the entry in the Commonwealth Gazette from 1914 for Royal Australian Navy awards. I couldn't find any evidence that O'Connell served during WWI.

As I researched this name there were several candidates who E O'Connell could have been. By a process of elimination I discarded those who didn't quite fit the bill. For example an Edmund O'Connell I found in the records turned out to be 14 years old in 1900. Through a family tree on Ancestry I recently put the final piece in place and with the help of Anita S I'll soon be able to forward this medal to Edward O'Connell's descendants.

I usually don't like to value a medal as I'm no expert. In this case it is probably worth noting that a China 1900 medal awarded to another sailor from this contingent recently sold for about $5000. However, the renaming of the medal would reduce the value considerably despite O'Connell being confirmed as having been a member of the force that went to China. I can only imagine that he lost the medal awarded to him at some point and then purchased another original medal and had it renamed. 

The returned medal tally is now 2511.

02 August 2020

Edward Trott

The service record for 2436 Edward Trott has shown a set of circumstances that I've not come across before.
On enlistment in 1915 he gave his age as 40 years and six months. It was not uncommon during WWI for soldiers to be less than truthful with their age by either putting their age up or down to enlist. What is unusual in Edward's case is that he successfully petitioned to be discharged early. The service record says his discharge was for family reasons but a letter dated in 1917 expands on this. A typed version of this letter is on page 14 of the service record.
Edward admits that in 1917 he was actually 46 years old and this, combined with multiple medical issues, makes him unlikely to ever be fit for further military service. He also writes that he is the father of nine children and that his wife is struggling to support their family. This appeal, and medical condition, got Edward an early discharge which occurred on 28 June 1918.
Edward was from South Australia, which I've complained about many times, does not have many public records available. This made the search for Edward's family difficult but it was eventually through Ancestry that a family member has been located.
Thanks to Sarah G who sent me Edward's Victory Medal.
The returned medal tally is now 2510.



19 July 2020

The Booker brother's medals

I recently published the story of Geoffrey Boulter and my collaboration with Matt H from the RSL QLD North Brisbane District. The Boulter research was the second set of medals that Matt asked for assistance with. This story is of the medals that Matt originally contacted me about.
Matt tells me that three WWI medals were recently found in a small tin box at the Hervey Bay tip. The medals were awarded to brothers 2574 Arthur John Booker and 1905 Herbert Edward Booker.
Arthur and Herbert were to sons of Albert Sidney Booker and Elizabeth Rose (nee Hurley). They also had a sister Mabel Rose.
Albert served with 9th Battalion, AIF and survived WWI. He did marry after the war but divorced having not had any children.
Herbert served in 15th Battalion, AIF and fought in the Battle of Lone Pine when he was killed in action on 8 August 1915. This clipping is the report of Herbert's death.

These two photos are of Herbert were also published in the news papers.
This is a photo of Mabel Rose Booker with other relatives. Mabel is on the far left.
I've been in contact with a relative who kindly provided me the photo of Mabel. I've now connected her with Matt so that the medals can be returned.
The returned medal tally is now 2509.

13 July 2020

G J Boulter

I've recently been collaborating with Matt H from the RSL QLD North Brisbane District. The first search he ask me to conduct hasn't quite come to conclusion yet but I'm keen to finalise it as one of the soldiers involved was KIA at Lone Pine.
This second search to assist Matt started when he was contacted by a medal framing company who had a set of medal that were dropped off in 2015 but never collected. On researching the family I found that the widow of QX Geoffrey Boulter died in 2016 which might explain why the medals were left at the framing company.  
I found the names of Geoffrey's son and grandson and provided all the information to Matt. He has now been in touch with the family and the medals will be returned in the near future.
The returned medal tally is now 2506.

E Revell

I've been slowly leopard crawling up on having returned 2500 medals for some time now. This search reflects the difficultly it took to get to this milestone.
It started with a Face Book post by Matt M who found the five medals in an old tool box that he bought some years ago. Matt has since told me that the tool box was purchased in the NSW Southern Highlands. This location subsequently made sense when I found where the veteran died and is buried.
The only clue to who the medals were awarded to is the engraved name and number on just one of the medals. I'll add the pictures at this part of the post rather than the end as it was the clues, or rather the lack of clues, from these medals which helped me put the full story together.

The number is immediately recognisable as a post WWII RAAF service number but the medal group didn't make sense as it looked to me to be British rather than Australia. I then realised that the medal on the War Medal ribbon is the RAAF Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, ERII version, and this is the medal which is named to E Revell. Revell's name doesn't appear on any of the DVA nominal rolls or in the electoral rolls. The only reference to him I found was in the 1963 Commonwealth Government Gazette which stated that his date of retirement from the RAAF had been extended to 1963. At this stage I still didn't know his first name.
I have a very good source who was able to access just one record that confirmed that the E stood for Ernest, his date of birth was in 1906 and that his NOK was his sister. No name for the NOK was given; just an address in Frankston, Victoria. 
Using the first name and year of birth I found that Ernest was born to James and Harriet Revell in London. He was one of 14 children. The 1901 and 1911 UK census gave me all the name of this family except for the youngest who was born in 1913.
Just to confirm that I had the correct person I looked at the BDMs of several states and from NSW I found this death record.
All the names aligned and the death occurred in Bowral which is in the NSW Southern Highlands, where Matt found the medals. I couldn't find a death notice or any marriage records for Ernest and started to suspect that since his NOK was his sister, he hadn't married. I then found a picture of his head stone in the Woolongong Cemetery. The epitaph also suggests that he had not married so I was back searching for his siblings. 
At this point of the search I was struggling how to proceed. It looked like all of Ernest's brothers remained in the UK and died there. I did find that Ernest emigrated to Australia in 1948. The ship manifest he was listed on gave the contact address for him and 16 other men as RAAF AOC c/- Canberra House London. I've surmised that Ernest was recruited in the RAAF along with many other former British servicemen. This explains the British WWII medals. The only other solid piece of information I had was the Frankston address of Ernest's NOK. Suspecting that this would have been current about the same time as Ernest was due to retire in 1963, I began a name by name search of the electoral roll of Frankston for that year. This particular roll is 166 pages and there are about 30 lines per page. It took several hours over a few days to get all the way to the letter H. I found a Elsie Ivy Hall lived that this address. A review of the 1911 UK census showed that one of Ernest' sisters, born in 1909 was named Elsie Ivy. This was enough evidence for me. Listed at the same address as Elsie was Walter George Hall. Locating a picture of Walter and Elsie's headstone gave me their son's name; Kenneth.

It then took a couple more days to work out that Kenneth's current contact details and it has been through his daughter Anna, that I've now been in contact with Kenneth.
Kenneth tells me he is sure that his Uncle Ern served in the RAF during WWII which confirms the WWII medals. Kenneth also said that Ern was pretty elusive and would just appear from time to time at his sister’s place. However, Kenneth rememberers Ern as a kind man. 
The returned medal tally is now 2501.