26 September 2020

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.


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