16 February 2020

Keven Sparks

In the past I've written about my relationship with the Green Shed. This is a recycling facility in Canberra who sell donated items, they also raise money for charity and create employment opportunities. My contact is co-owner Elaine and every time medals come in to her possession she sends them to me to return.
This latest medal group was found in November 2019 in a house clearance.
The group consists of The Australian Active Service Medal 1945-1975 with clasp Malaysia, the General Service Medal 1962 with clasps Malay Peninsula and Borneo and the Anniversary of National Service Medal. They were awarded to Keven Albert Thomas Sparks but with this type of research, nothing is easy. The records that were available had the first name spelt Kevin, either of the middle names were dropped, swapped or they were completely ignored.
What I could find was Keven on an Ancestry family tree and this lead me to his sister. We have recently been in contact and I'll be sending the medal to her shortly.
Thank you Elaine and the Green Shed.
The returned medal tally is now 2428.

29 January 2020

Charles George Shaw

When I saw that 4599 Charles George Shaw was a soldier from Tasmania I thought I was in some difficult research. Based on previous experiences researching Tasmanian soldiers, I knew there are very few public records available on line. Even Ancestry only has a few electoral rolls available from the 1950s.
The search did start out to be quite confusing. The early records I could find named Charles' mother as Ellen (nee Atwell) but in the service record there is a letter from his mother but using the name Jane and she gave her address in Sydney. For a while I was quite confused then I discovered that in the last few months the Tasmanian public records office have made available online multiple Birth, Death and Marriage records as well as other important documents. All free and easily searchable.
What I discovered was that Charles' mother was indeed named Ellen; his father was Charles. However, Ellen died when Charles jnr was six years old. Within a year Charles snr had remarried, this time to Jane Bailey. What I also found was that Charles snr and Jane had another son; William Duncan Shaw. If this wasn't fantastic enough information, I also found a picture of Charles jnr.

After WWI, Charles jnr simply disappeared from the records. There is no record of him having married or dying. Given that he was single at age 40 when he enlisted I made the assumption that he had no direct descendants.
I then turned my attention to Charles' brother, William. He also served in WW1 with the regimental number 6826. After WWI William and his with Ruby lived in NSW. They were much easier to follow though the records and via death notices. William also served in WWII but he lied about his age and made himself 10 years younger than he really was in order to enlist.
William and Ruby had three daughters and it took some tricky maneuvers through the NSW BDM, electoral rolls and death notices to work out their married names. This lead me to the family of one of William's granddaughters who died in September 2019. Her death notice gave me her three daughter's first names but what their married names were eluded me.
The only solid piece of information I had was the name of the funeral director. On Monday I sent the company an email asking for a request that the family contact me be forwarded. First thing yesterday morning I received an email from William's great granddaughter who was able to confirm all the family connections. I'll send her the medals in the near future.
I am very grateful to the Directorate of Honours and Awards who sent me the medals after they had been handed in. Also to Robert B Walker Funeral Directors who forwarded my message on.
The sharp eye reader will have noticed that the ribbons are on the wrong medal. This is how the medals came to me and it looks like they have been like this for many years.
The returned medal tally is now 2425.

Fred Twining

This is another international return that has taken five years to finalise due to a few false starts.
42081 Frederick George Twining was a British WWI soldier in the Royal Artillery. Finding Fred proved difficult which caused the false starts.
The records alternated between spelling his surname Twining and Twinning. As a result, it took some time to determine that Fred was born in 1891 and died in 1934. But then the trail run cold, I just couldn't find a link to the current generation. I revisited this search recently and found a new tree on Ancestry that included Fred. I've just received a reply from the tree owner who is Fred's great grandson. This is Mike who tells me he is looking forward to surprising Fred's granddaughter, and her siblings, with Fred's medal.
The mystery remains about how this medal got to Australia since Fred's family remained in the UK.
Thanks to Roger S who sent the medal to me originally.
The returned medal tally is now 2423.  

13 January 2020

Haywood and Gascoigne medals

When Trevor P of the MacLean RSL Sub Branch contacted me about these two medal I thought that it was two different searches and one was going to be difficult. Trevor couldn't find the two soldiers in the Australian records but I soon determined that the WWI medal was awarded to a British soldier and the WWII medal to a South African Union Defence Force soldier. And that is were the difficult lay.
The WWI Victory Medal was awarded to Gunner John Arthur Haywwod, Royal Artillery. Public records shows that he was born in 1885, he was married to Sarah Jane Crook in 1909 and died in 1961 in the UK. I located Sarah and John's headstone (picture below) which does not mention any children. I also found all of John's siblings but is appears that very few of his quite large family had children either. There was no obvious link to Australia.
From previous experience I knew that there are precious few little public records available about the SAUDF. The only record I could find that mentions Corporal Edward W Gascoigne, was that he was a POW, having been captured in Italy by the Germans.
What I couldn't find was any link as to why these medals would be in Australia. After over 10 hours of research I had not progressed past the 1960s for the John and 1943 for Edward. Out of frustration I expanded the one Haywood family trees that I found and there, in a distant branch, the name Gascoigne appeared. I've now been in touch with the tree owner in the UK and will send her the medals in the near future. What we can't work out is how the medals ended up in Australia. All I can think of is that they were part of a family collection that changed hands multiple times and ended up here.
Thanks to Trevor who sent me the medals.
The returned medal tally is now 2422.

14 December 2019

Ernest Place

This has been quite difficult search. It started in Nottingham, England when Ernest Place was born in 1900. It them moved to South Australia, which has the least amount of documents available on line. It has ended up back in England but not before some tricky family tree research.
VX15643 Ernest Gordon Place enlisted for WW2 in May 1940. By June1942 he had died and was buried in a cemetery in Melbourne. I can't find a cause of death but I suspected it was due to illness.
Ernest was one of three children. His brother eventually settled in South Australia but I couldn't find any evidence that he married or had children.
Ernest's sister was Marguerite who had remained in the UK when her brothers emigrated. Marguerite married Ulric Hopton who was a successful businessman. It is through Marguerite's family line that I was able to find Dominic in the UK who is Ernest's great great nephew. Working my why through that branch of the family tree proved difficult and it was only though Dominic's wife's family that I successfully made contact. I'll be sending these Australian WW2 medals to England soon where Ernest's family remains.
These medals were originally sent to me by Kerryn L and came in their box of issue. They have never been mounted for wearing.
The returned medal tally is now 2420.

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.

28 September 2019

Eric's medals

Another of Bill's successes.
This is a story from long ago which I've just wrote. It was not the easiest story to write, this is the first time I have sat down to try and fully record it. Pseudonyms have been used throughout, firstly to protect 'Eric', secondly others who were involved at different levels.    
Eric was a POW of the Japanese and, who sadly, had been separated from his family for many years. When he died in 2002, he left his medals to a mate. Sadly, the mate who has since also passed, was burgled in 2004 and the medals stolen.
Where they went next I do not know, until in 2011 they ended up in the possession of the Victoria Police. In 2012, a newly graduated Constable who had been told to clean up the "Lost Property Room mess” passed them to me.
And so the search began.
In 2014, I found one of Eric's sons who admitted that he and his brother, had been estranged from their father for many years, and they did not know whether they really wanted their father’s medals. However, Eric's grandson who was present said that he would like the medals, the medals of a grandfather he never met. And so Eric’s medals have gone to a grandchild who for all his sacrifices he never met. A grandchild with whom I spoke at great length, and whom I hope left with a better understanding of what his grandfather had endured, firstly as a soldier and secondly as a POW.

The returned medal tally is now 2403.

18 September 2019

Henry Appleby's lost medal group

Fantastic research by Bill.

The search for VX110755 Private Henry Appleby has been truly a search for a man who never was.
It started with a phone call from David Keall, the former President of the Victorian TPI, he had been given a set of medals to see if he could find the ‘owner’.
He had tried but hit brick walls, which we know all about. After a quiet Saturday together looking at what he had and what I could find on line, we both came to the conclusion that Henry was the ‘man who never was’. This was later confirmed when it was discovered that he does not appear on the WW2 Nominal Roll. The Service numbers prior to and after Henry appear but not Henry's.
From War Graves I got his date of death; 31st May 1988, which confirmed that he did exist, only he was missing from the list, why? That is being looked at.
Then it was back to the search roundabout. From the State Library I obtained his funeral details, where he was buried and his wife’s name.
Based on the time since Henry died, I took the well-worn path of looking at other people named Appleby buried in the same cemetery. Then it was to the on-line newspapers looking for what may have been written firstly about Henry and secondly all other Applebys appearing on line.
It was the entry for his wife, Maisie that referred to Henry and their children which finally took me to the Funeral Directors who had conducted her funeral.
Then it was a wait of less than an hour and Henry and Maisie’s daughter Lisa rung me.
From our conversation a gem stood out. Henry medals were stolen in 1983.
So where had the medals been? From the condition of the ribbons and the medals, they appear to have had a hard life. As for the medal’s future, Lisa has already put in train plans to have the medals cleaned and re-ribboned. They will ultimately be passed to Henry’s grandson.
In the future I hope to be able to provide a photo of the refurbished medals. And as for the Nominal Roll well, that is now being corrected.

The returned medal tally is now 2399.

14 September 2019

Helping the police

It is becoming more often that we get requests from the state or territory police forces to find the family of medals that they have recovered following a crime. Usually the circumstance are such that, because of an ongoing investigation, we can't reveal the name of the serviceman.
Just this week I had two such requests, one from Western Australia, the other from Queensland. Using the details provided by the police, I have been able to provide the names of the current generation of both of the families concerned. The police have now used their own resources to make the final contact and arrange for the medals to be returned.
Even though there is no story to tell about the serviceman or the research need to locate there relatives, the story really is about helping out the police, which has been a real pleasure.
The returned medal tally is now 2395.

10 September 2019

Three medals, two wars, one family

Initially this search confused me as I couldn't link the WWI medals awarded to 1417 Hugh Montgomery and VX145510 Leonard Leslie Smith after I received them from the Shrine of Remembrance.
I originally thought this was two separate searches and started by looking at Hugh and determining his wife's and daughter's name. Then I moved on to searching for Leonard's (Len) family. I found his headstone which gave his wife's name and something rung a bell. Hugh's daughter was Marjorie Mabel Montgomery and Leonard's wife was Marjorie Mabel Smith. A bit of deeper checking of the public records provided proof that this was the same person I so what had was medals to members of the same family.
That was probably the easiest part of this search. It then took more than two years to track down Len and Mabel's daughter's. Despite having the names of the next two generation of this family it proved difficult to make that final link. Thanks to a helpful relative on Ancestry I have just heard from one of Hugh's grand daughters and will soon be sending these medals home.
The returned medal tally is now 2388.