27 September 2020

VX28889 Private Colin Francis Orbell and VX44036 Private Raymond William Betts

A new day brings another success story from Bill. 

Two of the best places we start when returning medals is to look up the National Archives of Australia, to see if the complete service record is available  then to compare it with the DVA nominal roll.

This search was for two soldiers. Colin Orbell was born in Hawthorn Victoria in 1920 and Ray Betts was born in Wellington New Zealand in 1906. They had both been discharged on medical grounds in 1944, having served in New Guinea and that is where the similarity began and ended. That was until the medals were ‘discovered’ in 2013.

It is now almost two years since the medals awarded to Orbell and Betts were passed to me. Prior to this I believe there have been several attempts to return the two groups of five medals, but with no success. So the search began anew. It was not until I hit the brick wall in regard to Orbell, that I turned to Betts. I should have started with Betts, not only was his death details registered on the Ryerson Index, but his death notice was available on line. And like so many of that era, it laid out literally a family history.

But it wasn’t until I started to lay out Ray’s family tree that the penny dropped. Then comparing both family trees it bounced. Colin and Ray, were related through marriage. It was Lorraine, Ray’s daughter who filled me in on this relationship. She was also Colin’s niece. It is to her I have returned the medals, along with the request that the family be made aware of them and a plan be put into action to ensure their safety and future.

The returned medal tally is now 2549.





26 September 2020

Anniversary of National Service 1951-1972 Medal

This is the fifth of a series of stories from Bill on his recent successes

Private ‘Donald’ owes the return of his Anniversary of National Service 1951-1972 medal to John Wells, President of the Dandenong-Cranbourne RSL, and his determination to return it. The first problem was that the medal still in its presentation case had been handed in anonymously, so there was no history of where and when it was found.

That would come later.

Having via, Electoral Rolls (before the lockdown) found Donald, his explanation of its loss and eventual discovery came to the fore. Initially, he could not remember when he lost the medal. It was when I asked him if it may have been while he was living in Tasmania many years ago. He then remembered. He had taken it to an evening Church meeting, where he showed it around. That was the last time he could remember having the medal.

It would later transpire that a secretary found the medal still in its presentation box at the back of a desk drawer. And then started the process by which the medal ended up with John Wells.

However even after the medal was returned to Donald, a question still remains. If he took it to the meeting in when he did, that is an awful long time for a medal, to sit in a drawer, even at the back, without someone trying to return it, at least until John Wells received it in 2019.

The returned medal tally is now 2539.


Australian Flying Corps BWM

This is the forth of a series of stories from Bill on his recent successes.

As a background to this story, Australia was the only dominion of the British Empire to form a flying corps during World War I. The Australian Flying Corps, consisted of 460 officers and 2234 other ranks, John Donovan being one of them. Its members served in the Middle East and in Europe until they returned home after the war, in May 1919. At the start of the war, Australian airmen flew older aircraft over the burning Egyptian and Mesopotamian deserts. By the end, they were piloting the deadliest military planes of the war.
Combat in the skies over the Middle East was dangerous, but it never approached the scale of intensity of the air warfare over Europe.
The men of the Australian Flying Corps – those who flew and those who worked to keep the planes flying - were pioneers in warfare’s newest theatre: the sky.

At time there appears to be an almost certain sameness as to where medals suddenly appear. But what is more important is the commitment that those people who discover the medals, to see them returned to either the original recipient or their family. That medals just don’t ‘stay lost’ because it’s inconvenient to try and return the medals.

At the request of the family I have deleted much of the identifying data.

So perhaps it is best if I repeat the contents of my two emails the first to Michael, the great nephew. The second to Michael and Darren who found the medal and set out to return it.


First an introduction.

My name is Bill Wyndham, Vice President of Watsonia RSL.
I also have a joint role with the RSL and the Victorian Police, of locating and returning to the original recipient or their NOK, lost but later found, or stolen and recovered Service Medals.

Currently I have in my possession the British War Medal of the above Airman Class 2, John Patrick Donovan Regimental Number 191, Australian Flying Corps.

From research I believe you are related to John, being his great nephew. As John and his wife Elizabeth had as far as I can confirm no children. Therefore if you agree with what I have written, would your family be willing to take in trust John’s medal.

Michael’s answer as you can guess was a most affirmative yes.

So that gave way to my second email to Michael and to Darren who found the medal and from whom I had the privilege of helping him return it.

Michael, meet Darren. Darren meet Michael

Michael is the great nephew of John DONOVAN, whose medal you asked me to help you return. And at this point I will close, lest I cut short what you two will obviously want to ask one another. Also attached is my notes

My Regards to you both and thank you Darren for your trust. Michael for your commitment to an Australian serviceman, your great uncle John Patrick Donovan.

The returned medal tally is now 2538.


Thomas Robinson Kimpton

This is the third of a series of stories from Bill on his recent successes.

The return of medals awarded to  VX23549 Thomas Kimpton really is a combination of three stories.

The first part is the theft of the medals in 1986 and the devastation of their loss. Something I was not to learn till only recently, when I spoke to Tom’s son.

The second part is that of the Secretary of an RSL and on whose behalf I had been helping to return medals that came to his notice as a Police Officer. It is now over five years since he approached me in regard to Tom’s medals, these having been ‘donated’ by a member to Eric’s RSL. The only problem he had at the time as he told me was that the ‘donor’ was ‘known’ to him in his employment.

The limit placed on me at the time and thinking back on all the medals I was ever asked by Eric to research, was twofold, confidentially and not to progress beyond finding either the recipient, or his next of kin. That was his responsibility. It is as a consequence of these two requests that this story along with many others has never been published on our Blog.

The third and final part began with Eric’s wife who rang me last year. She and her daughter were finally getting around to cleaning up his study, following his passing away in 2015.

Among many items was an envelope containing five medals, written on the envelope was my name, address at my RSL club and my phone number.

So first a quick check. Yes I still had the data I had given to Eric. But first on the agenda was to collect the medals. It would later transpire that on collecting the envelope, there were several envelopes, each containing medals, but they are stories for another day.

But back to Tom’s medals. Tom passed away in 1999, his wife Alice in 2006. A lot can happen in 12 years, an incredible amount of research can become out of date as people move, marry, remarry move again quickly. With the restriction’s currently in force here in Victoria, visits to the State library have been curtailed. So it was back finally to pencil and paper, and the phone book, courtesy of the Internet. Finally after several weeks, and a multitude of calls, I found Tom’s son.

My original plan to catch up with him and present him with his father’s medals, has been put on hold as a consequence of restrictions. Accordingly there is now a small parcel sitting on my desk, which will tomorrow be sent via registered mail to Tom’s son.

The returned medal tally is now 2537