02 June 2021

LV James, DSC

Some stories really draw me in as I get to know families through the research to find out about a medal I have. That is definitely the case in the search for the family of Lawrence Vernon James. 

The medal was sent to me by Nicky and Eian M who found the medal under the following circumstances:

'There is sure to be a story attached to this medal because it is a complete mystery how it came to be just sitting on the top of the garden bed when I have not only gardened in this area for years, but we frequently walked past it whenever we go to the back shed'

It took me a bit of time to work out exactly who I was looking for as some records had the name spelt as Lawrence and others as Lawrance. Indeed, this misspelling caused me some concern as well as providing me a bit of medal education. When I first received the medal it was very apparent to me that the medal had been altered slightly. The rim near the naming is thiner than it should be as is width of the medal at the same point. While not easy to see it is very noticeable to the touch. In most cases I would suspect that this medal was renamed to some one other than the original recipient. However, the naming looked to be official and not poorly done as I've usually seen on medals that have been renamed. I checked with the members of the British Medals Forum who are far more knowledgeable than I am on this type of thing. I found that the naming was consistent with a medal issued by the Admiralty, that it was not unusual for a medal that had an incorrectly name to be returned so that a correction could be made and that the naming indicated someone who served in the Merchant Navy. Based on this information, I am of the opinion that Lawrence's first name was misspelt with an 'a' rather than an 'e' and he returned the medal to be corrected. Once I knew all this I was able to narrow down exactly who I was looking for.

With the confirmation of Lawrence's correct name and occupation I found his date of birth, 1880, and when he received his Master's certificate. Then came the surprise, Lawrence was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross at the Dardanelles (Gallipoli) for his skillful handling of his ship.

There was only a few references to Lawrence in the public records after WWI. Mostly these related to ship movements or court cases that involved member's of the crew on ship captained by Lawrence. The vital clue was a record of Lawrence's marriage to Eleanor Rose Simpson. Then the search got really interesting.

Eleanor was Staff Nurse (later Sister) Simpson who served in the Australian Army Nursing Service during WWI. Eleanor's record shows that she had to resign in 1917 when she married. Before this she had nursed those who were wounded or evacuated sick from Gallipoli.

I'm not exactly sure when Eleanor returned to Australia to live but I did find the emigration record for their son Peter Vernon James. Peter served as a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy Reserve during WWII. In 1950 he emigrated with his wife, three daughters and his sister. 

This gave me multiple clues to follow up. What I found was that Peter married Dorothy after she had divorced, it didn't appear that his sister Patricia married and the names of his step daughters to compare to the BDM records. 

I tried to follow Peter but other than a few electoral roll entries all the clues ran out in 1997 when he died. His death notice didn't provide many clues of value but the epitah with reference to his time at sea is touching.

From the NSW BDM, I established that Rosalyn Ethel married Ronald Freeman. From the electoral rolls I could easily follow Rosalyn, Ronald and their family as they moved on several occasions. The leads ran cold from the 1980s so I had to go back to the records I could confirm some facts on several occasions. Then something rang a bell of familirarity. On the back of the envelope that Nicky sent me the medal in was a street name in St Ives, NSW. I checked the exact address with her and this is what was familar. Rosalyn and Ronald had lived at the same address in 1954. It appears that the several blocks were owned by Ronald's family and used as an orchard before being developed for housing. It appears that the medal has been there for all the time but it is a mystry as to why it would appear now.

Finding one of Lawrence's decendent's proved difficult so I looked at Peter's wife, Dorothy. I soon found her on an Ancesry tree that is owned by Dorothy's nephew. This is Martin who was able to very quickly put me in touch with his first cousin, Peta. I know this name from the emigration record where Peta is listed as 5 months old in 1950.  

Peta and I are now in contact and she is so proud of the family's heoric service. It is such a pleasure to be able to return this medal to Peta.    

Thank you to Nicky and Eian. The retruned medal tally is now 2630.

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