14 October 2014

The Project

I have been fortunate to have had a story about a lost medal shown on Channel Ten's The Project. The story can be seen here.

Thank you to Ryan the producer and Barry and Cheryl, the real talent.

29 September 2014

Alban Charles Gray

Medals awarded to members awarded to the Merchant Marine are often difficult to research. There is a MN section as part of the WW2 nominal roll, however, these records aren't complete and there is limited other online resources. In addition, due to the nature of their profession, merchant mariners spend most of their life at sea and don't appear in the electoral rolls.
The search for Alban Charles Gray didn't start well as he is not included in the WW2 nominal roll however he did appear in the electoral rolls over many years so I was able to track him rather easily. These entries also gave me the name of his son, Cecil. The other items of information I picked up was that Alban died on Thursday Island in 1959 and Cecil died last year.
Thanks to Mary Loo, who posted the Gray family tree on Ancestry, I have been put in touch with a cousin of Cecil who I'll send the medals to in the near future.
Thanks to Marion of the Ipswich RSL for sending me Alban's medals.
The returned medal tally is now 1539.

27 September 2014

Charles Brown

All I know about NX32435 Charles Brown is that he was a sapper during WWII, he was married to Emily Robbins and they had no children. There were very few details about Brown in all the records but I was lucky enough to find a reference to Charles and Emily on an Ancestry tree. Wendy who is the tree owner was kind enough to provide me the best person to send the medal to.
Thanks to Sandra who sent me the medal.
The returned medal tally is now 1537.

21 September 2014

Launcelot Owen MC

This search has probably been one of the most taxing I have completed. In the end it was broken down in to three distinct areas. First, who were the medals awarded to, second, who was the officer and finally who was his family?
Following the ACA story on Anzac Day 2013 I was contacted by Bev and John S. They had two medals that had been recovered many years ago from a house that a relative of theirs cleared out on behalf of the Master of Lunacy. A bit of digging showed me that this was a common term used by the Supreme Court of NSW for the Office that acted on behalf of those unable to look after their own affairs due to mental incapacitation.
When the package from Bev arrived I received the first surprise. The package contained a cased Military Cross and a British War Medal. The MC was not engraved at all which didn't surprise me. The BWM was simple impressed to LIEUT L Owen. Not much to go on. A search of the Australian WWI MC recipients didn't offer up any likely candidates. So I started to look at British Officers. Once again there was no immediate answer to this problem.
On a hunch I looked at the Australian WWII nominal roll and found a likely candidate. This was N280817 Lancelot Owen, born in Terfriw Wales in 1888. The sums added up that this man could have served during WWI. However, a search for Lancelot Owen didn't lead anywhere.
I enlisted the help of the British Medals Forum membership and was soon pointed (by Kay) at a possible link in the London Gazette. This was the break I was looking for. The entry was about the awarding of the MC to T/LT Launcelot Owen. The spelling was slightly different and might not have been my man. It had taken me three days to get to this point. This is the citation.
The next step I took was one I should have taken when  found that Launcelot served in the 2nd AIF. I searched the National Archives of Australia website and to my surprise found that Launcelot's WWII service record had been digitised. This record confirmed the citation was for the right officer, it gave his wife's name, his WWI service history, that he had received the MC and was Mentioned is Dispatches. However, it was the letter on page 20 that provided many answers as well as posing more questions.
The letter was from the Master's Office of the NSW Supreme Court, other wise know as the Master of Lunacy. I have added the letter below but the most interesting bit of information was that Launcelot was lost without trace in a plane accident to the north of Australia.
Once I had the correct spelling of his name it was easy to follow Launcelot and his wife, Phyllis as they traveled around the world. Launcelot's civilian profession was as a geologist and he is recorded on many passenger manifests as he moved from job to job. In 1933 he moved to Australia and is mentioned in many news paper articles. He spent some years working as the Managing Director of an onshore drilling company exploring PNG for oil.
From the records and letters I was sure that Launcelot and Phyllis didn't have any children so turned to the final problem of finding his family. I stared in the small Welsh village of Trefirw only to discover that every second family was named Owen. This shouldn't have surprised me. Luckily not many have the first name of Launcelot and I soon worked out his parents were named Hugh and Eleanor. From the census records I put together a family tree which consisted of Hugh's parents and his siblings but not much else. I wrote to the Trefirw Historical Society but unfortunately did not hear back. By now I had spent several weeks on the search so I parked it for awhile.
On 15 September 2013, quite by chance, I came across a post on the Great War Forum about the Owen's of Trefirw. I contacted the originator, Rich, and received a reply almost immediately. Over the the next 12 hours we established that the Owens that Rich was related to was not the family I was looking for. But this inspired me to look at Launcelot's case again.
Using another series of search combinations I stumbled across a family tree which had exactly the same details of the Hugh's generation that I had worked out previously. Following the tree I could work out who were Launcelot's cousins right though to the current generation. The one person I could identify has been completely uncontactable despite months of effort.
I then had to return to square 2. I had had little luck with Launcelot's father's siblings so I looked at his mother's family. Her name was Elenore (sometimes referred to as Ellen) Roberts. Her brother was Richard Rowland Roberts. To my surprise I found that his son, Roland Cecil Roberts, died in NSW in 1987. Thanks to another Ancestry family tree I have been able to contact Roland's grandson. After all that I'll soon be able to return the medals to Launcelot's second cousin.
Thanks go to Bev and John for wanting to return the medals. Thanks also to Rich who was very generous with his own families information. He also provided me the picture of the the headstone of Robert and Jane Owen, Launcelot's grand parents. Donna and the Dolgarrog Genealogy Group Face Book page were all very helpful. Final thanks goes to Mas who provided the final link to the Robert's family in NSW.
The returned medal tally is now 1536.

04 September 2014

WW2 Defence Medal

The WW2 Defence medal awarded to WX4662 Burton Orlando Grave came to me via my friend Sandra. Burton's family was originally from Victoria but sometime around 1900 they moved to Perth. Burton was born in 1905 and had several sibling. He did marry but had no children. Of all of his siblings only one had a child, Vivian, who was tragically killed when the HMAS CANBERRA was sunk in 1942.  
I then had to go back to Burton's father's family. They had all remained in Victoria so I focused on one brother, Henry Roper Grave and quickly followed the family through to the current generation. It wasn't long before I was in contact with this branch of the family and will soon send them the medal.
The returned medal tally is now 1534.

03 September 2014

VC article from the Australian War Memorial blog

Wednesday 3 September 2014 by Robert Nichols. 

It is often asserted that it is somehow disrespectful, or otherwise inappropriate, to speak of someone “winning a VC”. This is not so. It is, in fact, perfectly permissible – and sometimes unavoidable – to say that someone has won a Victoria Cross or some other bravery award.
But why does this make some people uncomfortable? The reason seems to be because they see the term “win” as reserved for the outcomes of prizes or competitions. However, the word is plainly not restricted to such contexts. Rather, it is widely used to convey the meaning “achieve, get, or earn by effort”. For example, it is common to talk of winning respect or acclaim, of winning ore from a mine, or of winning a battle. And when we say that someone has won our respect we intend to suggest that this is because of various merits they possess or actions they have performed. Similarly, when we speak of someone winning a Nobel Prize – or even a Brownlow Medal – we don’t mean to suggest that their name has simply been drawn out of a hat, but rather that this award is due recognition of outstanding, or in any case praiseworthy, achievement. And, on the face of it, similar considerations clearly apply in the case of military awards.
There is another interesting parallel worth considering. The word “win” is clearly being used metaphorically in such contexts – just as “lose” is often used metaphorically in analogous ones. But it is curious that no one ever objects to us speaking of men “losing their lives” in battle. Surely, if there is something disrespectful about winning a VC, it should be no less so to speak of losing a life. And yet no one thinks this. Indeed, it does seem somewhat ludicrous to suggest that we cannot say that “Dasher” Wheatley won a VC, but that it is perfectly acceptable to say that he lost his life while doing so.
It is worth pointing out that the use of “win” is common in standard reference works on medals and awards; for example, Abbott and Tamplin’s British gallantry awards, Lionel Wigmore’s They dared mightily, and even the UK Ministry of Defence fact sheet on Military honours and awards. All of these works use the word quite happily. In addition, Australian official historian Charles Bean often speaks of men winning the Victoria Cross: for example, in Anzac to Amiens (1946) he refers to “Colonel Neville R. Howse, a country surgeon who had won a V.C. in South Africa”. Furthermore, Anthony Staunton, the acknowledged Australian expert on the Victoria Cross (and long-time member of the Orders and Medals Research Society of the UK), does not believe that using the term suggests the award was the result of a prize or lottery. He and other prominent scholars who have contributed entries to the Australian dictionary of biography – A.J. Hill, Kevin Fewster, and R.P. Serle spring to mind – speak freely of their subjects “winning a VC”.
Neville Howse
“In the Boer War he won the Victoria Cross.” Sydney Morning Herald, Monday 22 September 1930
Finally, and perhaps most significantly, Australian soldiers have themselves typically used such expressions, as various entries in The Anzac book (1916), edited by Charles Bean and “Written and Illustrated in Gallipoli by The Men of Anzac”, make clear. For example, “Crosscut”, a member of the 16th Battalion, AIF, contributed a poem entitled “How I won the VC”.
ART00035 The original Anzacs had no problem with using the term “win”. The Anzac book, 1916 ART00035
It is also important to note that there are difficulties with other possible formulations, and so if we are denied recourse to the term “win” we will sometimes generate much unnecessary awkwardness. Take, for example:
He was awarded his VC for the valour he showed at Pozier├Ęs.
This is fine, of course, and precisely what we would often say. However, problems can arise if we are prevented from ever saying that someone won a VC. For example, Neville Howse is by common consent the first Australian to win a Victoria Cross. But, strictly speaking, he was not the first Australian to be awarded a VC. For Howse’s award was not gazetted until 4 June 1901, by which time two other Australians, John Bisdee and Guy Wylly, had already been awarded their VCs. Bisdee’s award was gazetted on 13 November 1900 and Wylly’s on 23 November.
But if we cannot say that Neville Howse was the first Australian to win a VC – the most natural and succinct formulation, and the one that most people would naturally understand – what can we say? It would have to be something like this:
Howse was the first Australian to perform an action for which he was later (successfully) recommended for the award of a VC.
Clearly, it will not always be appropriate, or desirable, to use such a laboured expression. What about this:
There were seven Australian VCs awarded at Lone Pine.
However, someone unacquainted with the situation might misinterpret this to mean something untrue; namely, that seven men took part in an award ceremony of some kind at Lone Pine. Perhaps this will work:
There were seven recipients of the VC at Lone Pine.
But this could be wrongly misinterpreted to mean that there were present at Lone Pine seven men who had each earlier won a VC. And so on, and so forth. There appear to be unfortunate complications that undermine almost every other suggestion. Hence our preference for “winning”. In the end, what we want is an expression that is readily understandable to all, that is to say, that uses plain language which people cannot misinterpret, and that allows us to make statements that are wholly congruent with the facts of the matter. And it seems clear that if we say
Seven Australians won the VC at Lone Pine
then everyone knows exactly what is meant, and what has been said is unambiguously true.
In sum, while it is not always obligatory to say that someone won a VC, choosing to do so is wholly unobjectionable. And, as we have seen, it is sometimes necessary to do precisely this if the writer wishes to make simple, clear, and accurate statements about those who have performed outstanding acts of bravery in the service of the nation.

Robert Nichols
Senior Editor

31 August 2014

WW2 RAAF medals

59477 Lawrence Gordon O'Brien served with the RAAF during WWII. His service record isn't on line so other than the listing that his last posting was a repair and servicing unit I couldn't find any further information about what he did. Lawrence and his sons were easy to track through the electoral rolls. That was until 1980.
I knew the first and middle name of Lawrence's grand daughter but not her married name. I found a 1980 electoral roll entry with a person with the same names at an address close to where Lawrence's son lived. Using that initial and surname combination I had a look at the white pages. I found a candidate but the address was different. This morning I took another punt which aid off and was soon speaking to Lawrence's grand daughter. I'll send her the medals in the near future
Thanks to Graham Docksey from the Albury RSL who sent me the medals.
The returned medal tally is now 1533.

29 August 2014

Bradford Pascoe-Pearce

This story has several treads to it that came together today. The first thread started in 2011when I met Catherine and Bill Hindson when I returned Catherine's grandfather's WW1 medal to her. As a result of this connection Catherine referred her friend Mary K to me.
Some years ago Mary purchased a group of WWII medals from a op-shop. The medals were awarded to NX71989 LT Bradford Pascoe-Pearce. What I immediately noticed from the nominal roll was that Bradford died on 15 August 1945, just 3 weeks before the Japanese surrender. Bradford was a POW and died in Borneo. He is buried in the Labuan War Cemetery. Having discovered this information I worked out that Bradford was married in 1941, she and Bradford did not have any children. His widow remarried in 1952.
I then started looking at Bradford's siblings. The first was his brother Max. NX3928 Lance Sergeant Maxwell Pearce-Pascoe was a POW of the Germans and held in Stalag 383. He is one of 150 Australians to have died as a German POW. Maxwell is buried in the Durnbach War Cemetery having died on 15 March 1945. The photos below are of Maxwell's funeral.
There are several other notable members of the Pascoe-Pearce family. Bradford's father was Edward the Mayor of Parramatta. His brother Harcourt (Bill) was a Wallaby.
Following the family through the electoral rolls from 1900 to the 1950s was rather easy. Once I hit the sixties most of the clues dried up. I did find a reference that Bill had two daughters and luckily I could work out their married names from a death notice. Then there was a big gap in the records. Using one of the married surnames and two initials I came up with a phone number in the White Pages. To my surprise the address is about 20km from where I work.
Now the next thread. Catherine and Bill live 2 minutes drive from my office so this afternoon I collected the medals from her. Once I got home I rang the number I thought was a family member and sure enough I was soon speaking to Bradford's niece, Elizabeth. Hopefully, Elizabeth and I can meet soon and I'll be able to hand her Bradford's five medals.
Mary has really looked after this group. After she purchased them she had them mounted and also added a replica medal to replace the missing ASM 1939-45.
The returned medal tally is now 1529.

Bradford Pearce-Pearce and two of his medals

28 August 2014

A single WW2 medal

The WW2 record of V9082 Josiah William Neal Thompson shows that he was a member of the Survey Corps. Nothing unusual about this but when I looked up his name in the electoral rolls it showed that he lived his life in Bendigo and even up until 1980 his employment was listed as 'soldier'. Those who have been in uniform for a few years will know that the home of the Royal Australian Survey Corps was in Bendigo at Fortuna. The Royal Australian Survey Corps was integrated in to the Royal Australian Engineers in 1996 and is only in very recent times that Fortuna as sold off by Defence.
While I could follow Josiah quite easily in the electoral rolls, his family was a bit harder to pin down. I now know he had 11 children but it was one reference to Ivor James Thompson in the 1954 roll that gave me a solid clue. Ivor moved to Rochester in Victoria and the electoral roll entries showed him and Eileen at the same address for many years. I looked up the name in the White Pages and to my pleasant surprise I found E Thompson listed at that address. I called the number today and sure enough I had it right and was soon speaking to Eileen.
Thank you to Sandra who sent the medal to me. The returned medal tally is now 1524.

Post update - Albert Carter

The post for Albert Budd Carter has had 2 photos added.

20 August 2014

WW2 group of four medals

Another great story from Bill.

There are often times when Glyn and I are asked do we know where the medals have been. Often my answer is no. Sometime just finding the next of kin is enough. The WW2 medals of VX105924 (V125026) CorporalCharles Louis Apotheloz certainly fits this mold.
From Ian, Secretary of the Stratford RSL to Jude Beshears, the Office Manager of the Victorian Branch of the RSL is a short distance in time, what is longer though is from Charles’s death in 1965, or the death of his wife Gladys in 1968, to now. Where has his medals been all this time and how many hands have they passed through.
As I said at the introduction, sometimes we have to be satisfied that returning the medals is the best we can do. So shortly the medals will be returned to Ian, Charles’s nephew, and who it transpired when I contacted him, is the family historian. I recently told the team of the Australian Surname Group: “tonight I spent nearly an hour on the phone to Ian, slowly working my way through the family tree your input had help construct. Ian confirmed as I thought from his service file that Charlie had not had an easy life during his military service. He had been quite ill after the war and it was not until late in life that he married Gladys. Unfortunately they had no children”.
When I spoke to Ian tonight uppermost in my mind was to ensure that the family understood that if they (family) should accept custodianship of Charles medals, then it was beholden to them to not only care for the medals but ensure that an ongoing ownership of the medals was maintained. It is this last item, which both Glyn and I hold strong views about. You are never ‘given’ a serviceman’s medals, you only hold them in trust.

The returned medal tally is now 1523.  

16 August 2014

WWI British War Medal

Some of our searches raise more questions than answers. This story from Bill is one example. The result was a successful return

The background to the search for a next of kin of 7029 Arthur Sylvia Lane is convoluted, even if you allow for the queries over Arthur's full given names, Arthur Sylvia or Arthur Silvio?
The request to look for the family came as a consequence of a deceased estate and an enquiry by the will Executor to the Victorian branch of the RSL for help.
Unfortunately, and I do not know why or how there were no details of where the medal came from. Even now I don't, but to Gordon for his reaching out to the RSL, thank you.
But above all this search belongs to the team of the Australian Surname Group, whose patience and perseverance won the day.

The medal that was returned was a British War Medal. The returned medal tally is now 1519. 

12 August 2014

WW2 Royal Australian Navy medal group

The four WW2 medals awarded to PA1728 Able Seaman Raymond Hartley Rusby were sent to me by Vicki D about 2 weeks ago. It didn't take me long to work out that Ray was originally from South Australia so I knew there would be a little bit of difficulty find family details as the South Australian records are difficult to access. The give away that Ray was from SA is his service number. The PA stands for Port of Adelaide which was part of the Navy numbering system during the war.
Luckily I came across a family tree which was able to provide me some family names I could also research. This lead me to Ray's brother who lives in Canada and another relative who was able to forward a message to Ray's daughter.
In the near future I'll be forwarding Ray's medals to Cheryl in the same pristine condition they were issued over 60 years ago.
Thank you to Vicki for the medals and Keith and Annette for their assistance.
The returned medal tally is now 1518.

11 August 2014

Albert Budd Carter

Every so often we do some research that is not only challenging but has a story that is truly upsetting.
I received a WWI pair recently from Rod P of Cairns which set off a fascinating bit of research.
695 Albert Budd Carter was a 40 year old furnace man from South Shields, England. In 1915 he was living in Melbourne with his wife Jane. When he enlisted he was allocated to 57th Battalion, AIF.  The battalion was involved in the Battle of Mont St Quentin in August 1918 and then further fighting around Bellicourt in late August. It was here, on 29 August 1918, that Albert was killed in action, just six weeks before Armistice Day.
Other than a couple of electoral roll entries up until 1919 there was very little details about Jane. By 1923 all mention of her had disappeared from the records.
From the Commonwealth War Graves entry we had Albert's parent's name, James and Hannah, and where they were from in England. To help out, Bill enlisted assistance from the Australian Surname Group. Within a couple of hours we had the names of Albert's siblings and clues from immigration records about Albert. He was a seafarer and hence his occupant as a furnace man. A few other clues led me to locate several siblings who emigrated to Queensland and then to NSW. After following a few promising leads around the Sydney suburbs I ran in to dead ends. It is then I went back to Albert's eldest bother, Walter James Carter.
Walter married Louisa Bricknell in Queensland and they had four children. One was named Charles Edward after another of Albert's siblings. Charles married Ivy and their son is Graham Carter. I found Graham in the electoral rolls in 1977. A quick check of the White Pages had a G Carter at the same address so I took a punt and rang the number. To my relief I found the right family.
This research was a little difficult but thanks to all the individual pieces of information I received I  was able to put together the solution is a little over 24 hours. Thank you to all those who assisted and to Rod who sent me these medals along with the O'Rourke medal.
The returned medal tally is now 1514.

Post update 28 Aug 14
Graham has had Albert's medals mounted and framed. He has kindly provided my some photos and permission to publish them.

09 August 2014

Lawrence O'Rourke - KIA

1157 Lawrence William O'Rourke was a 22 year old farmer from Tasmania when he enlisted in 1915. He was allocated to the 26th Battalion, AIF.
O'Rourke fought at Gallipoli but eventually fell ill. He was hospitalised on Malta before returning to  Egypt. In March 1916 he transferred to the Divisional Train as part of the Australian Army Service Corps. At some point after this he returned to his battalion
On 29 July 1916, O'Rourke was killed in action. He has no know grave and is commemorated at Villers-Bretonneux.
O'Rourke's next of kin was his brother Arthur. I have located Arthur's grand son Barry and will soon return O'Rourke's British War Medal to him.
Thank you to Rod P who sent me the medal. The returned medal tally is now 1512.

Father and son medals

Increasingly Bill and I are providing assistance to the Police forces around Australia. We are very pleased that is some small way we can help out.
Bill recently did all the research to locate the family of Guy Kellaway Headlam (WWII service) and his son Robert Guy Headlam. This story was published on line recently but really doesn't tell the full story as there are some aspects that need to remain private.
The returned medal tally is now 1511.

24 July 2014

Frederick Saunderson

When NX60383 Frederick James Saunderson, passed away in April 1982, his medals were passed by Fred’s wife Regina to their son. That was the last the family saw of the medals till just recently when we contacted Fred’s daughter. To say the least she is overjoyed that the medals have been found.
Following the Fred’s son’s death in Queensland in 2000, the family have been searching for the medals. Always with no result.
We were recently contacted by Steve Eaton of the Queensland RSL to whom the medals have been handed. We have a long relationship with the Queensland RSL so it was great to be able to put our research skills to the test to help them out and track down Frederick’s family. 
The returned medal tally is now 1504.
Pictures to follow.