Another great story about Bill's research and the return of three more medals. The returned medal tally is now 1309.
One of the important elements of a successful search to locate the owner of medals is how and where they were ‘found’. In this case even though I have returned the medals, there are as many unanswered questions as answered.
The initial request for help came from Veterans Affairs, who had been contacted in regard to the war medals of a Sergeant Augustine (Gus) Cahill, whose medals had been found in 1968. Over the intervening years various groups it appears had attempted to return them but with no success. The last holder of the medals who had them for 4 years, had given up. Would we, Lost Medals Australia, enquired Veterans Affairs, be willing to look at the issue.
From preliminary research it soon developed that the medals mentioned did belong to Sergeant Cahill. However, the medals in question the 1939-1945 War Medal, The Defence Medal, and The Australian Active Service Medal, made up possibly half of the medals Gus would have received for his WW2 service.
Gus served with the 2/1 Field Company during WW2, discharging in October 1945. He would later re-join after having ‘fiddled’ his date of birth, reducing it by two years so he could serve in Korea as an infantryman with 3 Battalion RAR.
So where were the other two additional medals he should have received for his Korean War service?
At this point you will note the condition of the medals, someone had cleaned them with an abrasive cloth. This scratching even includes the inscription on the bevel. Enquires as to who had done the cleaning proved fruitless. It was all a case of ‘before my time’.
Now began the search in earnest. From War Graves came his date of death, 10 October 1984, however, the whereabouts of the death was unknown. Ryerson our first port of call, had no entries.
As he had been living in and around Mount Isa, I chose this as my starting place, and fortunately I found his grave. I also found another that then led me to believe there was a possibility Gus had married at some time. But had he? This is one of the problems we always face as we search through a family, we cannot second guess. The return of the medals is too important. It would take several Interstate phone calls, one letter, and countless emails over 2 month before I could confirm that Gus had never married.
Having hit the brick wall, and now accepting that Gus had not married, and therefore the possibility of an heir having evaporated, I then chose to go back and look to Gus’ family tree. And what a tree it turned out to be, Gus was the youngest of 7 brothers. More importantly all the brothers had been born in Victoria, and when their father moved to Sydney, NSW, they all followed.
It was from Trove that I found and read Gus’ mother’s death notice which included the names of her three surviving sons, Gus, Frederick and Raymond.
Trove the online newspaper data base when coupled with the Second World War Nominal Roll, and the RyersonIndex, make up a powerful search combination, if one has the patience to work through, what at times seems a daunting list of newspaper articles.
This in turn brought me to his surviving brothers Fred and Ray, their subsequent marriages and sadly their passing. It was from these latter two dates that I eventually found Frederick’s wife Jeanette.
At this time Jeanette went into care and I lost contact. It was quite some time before I was able to contact Susan her daughter, Gus’ niece and to whom the medals will be returned.
In the meantime I have written on behalf of Susan to the Department of Defence, Honours and Awards Section to find out if Gus’ Korean War Medals were ever issued.
A postscript: Rarely do I go back at the end of a search, to try and see if I can find out something about the history and travels of the lost medals.
Eventually the following stories came to light.
One non-attributable story is that the medals were stolen during the school holidays by a group who were suspected of being involved in running a burglary operation. Perhaps this could explain why only three ‘silver’ medals were recovered, these being one person’s share The rest could well have been split up among the others in the group.
Another also non-attributable story was that a parent ‘confiscated’ them, and not knowing what to do, put them in a drawer where they stayed for many years. At this point common sense told me to stop, I stopped.
But in closing can I say that from 1968 to 2013 is a long time for something that has been ‘found’ to remain ‘missing'.