31 August 2015

Father and son medals

This search was very frustrating. Over several weeks I managed to find snippets of information about Henry William Small and his son Kenneth Andrew Small. However, there was one key piece of information I just couldn't find. That was until the other night where a bit of desperation led me to find the solution.
The Queen's South Africa Medal awarded to William Henry Small and the WWII group awarded to NX152534 Kenneth Andrew Small were sent to me by Lindsay R of the NSW RSL.
I found William's service details on a Boer War research website. He served in the South African Constabulary but these were only basic details. The clasps for his QSA are: 'Transvaal', 'Orange Free State' and 'Cape Colony'. Kenneth's WWII details were also easy to find. That is when I hit the first brick wall.
It wasn't until I entered Kenneth's name in to the British WWI pensions records that I found him listed as the next of kin of Henry William Small, later pages in this record swapped the names around again. Knowing that Henry's first name interchanged with his second name over the years helped considerably. Henry served in the British Army for many years and the last record shows that he was still serving in 1922. He full medal entitlement must have been impressive. In Henry's pension records it states that he was abandoned by this wife - Alice Andrews. Luckily Kenneth's address was given. Using all these details I found the immigration records of Alice and Kenneth when they left England for Australia in 1924.
It was then easy enough to follow them through the electoral rolls up until the 1960s.
Alice died in 1955 and her death notice mentioned Ken and Molly. Molly turned out to be Kenneth's wife Mary but they divorced in 1958 not having had children. I couldn't find a death notice for either Kenneth or Molly so that is when I hit the next brick wall.
Out of desperation I started with different search combinations on Ancestry until I came across a family tree which included Alice Andrews. That was the key I needed. This family tree was very extensive and confirmed what I had surmised. A message to the tree owner was answered tonight and my frustration is over.
The returned medal tally is now 1715.

26 August 2015

Frank Catterall

Bill and I are usually reluctant to do any research until we receive a medal. This is due to some unfortunate occurrences in the past where we have expended considerable resources on our research only to find for one reason or another we can not complete the return. However, when we see that the person holding the medal is so committed to returning it we are confident enough to start the journey.
This was the case recently when I was contacted by Dr Sandra A who had a WWI medal awarded to 5354 Frank Alfred Catterall.
Frank was originally a member of the 3rd Battalion before being taken on strength of the 55th Battalion. How Sandra's family came in to possession of this medal is a mystery but after many years of research she had hit a brick wall in finding Frank's family.
What I found out was that Frank married Amy Winifred Klauss, however, they had no children. His sister, Alma Doris Catterall married Albert Edward Wallace. Their daughter was Marjorie Ida Wallace who married Clifford Frederick Parsons. This research led me to Scott E who put me in touch with his mother, Kathy the daughter of Marjorie and Clifford Parsons.
The last step in this process for me has to connect Sandra and Kathy so that the medal can be returned to the family.
The returned medal tally is now 1710.

24 August 2015

Albert Gale newspaper story

Tonight I received a fantastic email from Tim, the great grandson of Albert Gale whose story I posted a few weeks ago. He very kindly sent me scans of a story from his local paper.

Robert Cocking

Bill says that this is a story that wanders.

Many of the medals that come to us, come as ‘orphans’. While we initially know nothing of the veteran but we do have a means of identifying them, in many case the people who pass the medals to us often admit to knowing even less. In the case of the British War Medal awarded to 3268 Gunner Robert Thomas Cocking, it came from a small parcel sent to me from ANZAC House in Melbourne. It had, along with a varied collection of other medals, been recovered by the Victorian Police, who as the law dictates were somewhat circumspect in passing the source.
From a simple search using his reported death in the Argus Newspaper of both the 2nd and 16th May 1917, along with the Victorian BDM’s and the help of the Team at The Australian Surname Group, I was soon able to deduce the family tree. But then it got hard, as the Cocking family were again hit by tragedy when Robert’s sister Clara passed away in 1932. Her death notice referred to a daughter Gwynoth and her husband Walter Meryment, but nothing else.
So at this time I decided to look to Robert’s brother’s family.
It was relatively uncomplicated up until Arthur Cranston Cocking married in 1924. Perhaps the records say it best, Arthur Cranston married Mona Lyons Ford or Mona Lyonsford, either way Arthur Cranston Cocking disappeared to be replaced by Arthur Cranston who literally disappeared until I found his enlistment papers from WW2. What I did find interesting was that a M. Forty was given as his next of kin.
Taken as a Prisoner of War on Crete in 1941, Arthur suffered ill health from his release in 1945 until his untimely death in 1973. But even with the electoral rolls the search slowly ground to a halt as the undertakers were unable to locate any documentation. The only further reference I could find of Arthur was having his name of the Ballarat POW Memorial.
So now it was back to Gwynoth and the discovery of a newspaper entry of Walter’s request for administration of Clare’s will. All of this documentation had originated in NSW.
Now it was to the NSW BDM’s, and after a while of mucking around found ‘Gwynoth’s’ marriage as Gwyneth Clare Meryment to a Clarence Ready.
A week ago I spoke to Steve, Gwyneth’s son who advised me quite proudly that his mother was still alive. So tomorrow I will stop by the Watsonia Post Office and when I ring Steve tomorrow evening it will be to tell him that Robert’s British War Medal, one of three medals his father claimed in 1921 are coming home. 

The returned medal tally is now 1709.

14 August 2015

Vietnam War pair

The Vietnam War pair of medals awarded to 219607 John Frederick Spellacy came to me from Jock at Defence Archives after they had been handed in.
John Spellacy served with 110 Signal Squadron in 1970-71, just a couple of years after our Bill was with this unit.
Unfortunately, John died in 2009 but I've been able to contact his family and will returned the medals in the near future.
The returned medal tally is now 1708.

10 August 2015

Lloyd Williams

A wonderful story from Bill
It was only when I spoke to Glyn prior to emailing him this story of Corporal Lloyd Lentell Williams, that we both realised a common tread across several return. This was the sixth time we have returned medals, which were issued to the families of those who were lost when the Montevideo Maru sank. If there is one defining characteristic that unites them, it is the treasured memories of their loved ones, memories that they still hold so dear.
The search to return the Australian Service Medal of VX50632 Corporal Lloyd Lentel Williams, began with a phone call from Cindy at the Cranbourne RSL.
“We have a medal that has been passed in at the club and we would like to return it. I have looked up the Serviceman, but all we have been able to find is that he was killed when the ship he was a POW on was sunk.”
Without thinking it came to my mind “The Montevideo Maru”.
“Yes that’s the one.” she replied.
And so began the search. A search that took me back, back in time to memories of previous searches involving other POWs who had been lost when the Montevideo Maru sank after it was torpedoed by the USS Sturgeon off the Philippines.
As Lloyd had never married, it became a family search first looking back to his parents, to try and locate any siblings, all of whom would have been born after the cut off date (1920) of the Published Victorian Births Register. A further distraction was that the details surrounding the sinking of the Montevideo Maru, and the subsequent loss of life, were never released to the families until well after the end of the war.
After a somewhat tedious and confusing search, I was fortunate to find a mention of Lloyd’s loss in The Argus newspaper of Tuesday 9th October 1945, which said:
‘WILLIAMS.-On or about July 1, 1942, lost at sea while P.O.W., VX50632 Lloyd Lentell, 2/22nd Battalion, Rabaul, second dearly loved son of Leslie and Gwen Williams, 18 Morven street, Mornington, and loved brother of Lesley (Mrs. Milton), Frank (A.I.F.), Ken (A.I.F.). and Ian (A.I.F.), aged 24 years. -A wonderful son and bravest soldier.’
I now had the family and above all Lloyd’s siblings identity I was able to harness the unique research skills of the Australian Surnames Group came to the fore. I eventually found myself talking to Tim, the grandson of Lloyd’s sister Ada. Tim is a school teacher and has made it his responsibility to maintain the War Service history of his Uncle Lloyd and his three brothers, Frank, Ken and Ian.
Tim admitted that for many years now he has searched for Lloyd’s medals but with no success. But as he admitted when we spoke, he has never given up looking, and the return of Lloyd’s ASM has only encouraged him to keep searching.
The returned medal tally is now 1706.

This picture is of Lloyd from his service file

 The Montevideo Maru
The Freighter Montevideo Maru. Before the war, it operated as a passenger and cargo vessel, travelling mainly between Asia and South America.
On 22 June 1942 an estimated 845 prisoners of war (POWs) and 209 civilians died when she was torpedoed by a US Navy submarine, USS Sturgeon, off the coast of Luzon Island in the Philippines. The ship sank quickly, this with the fact that the holds in which the prisoners were kept had been battened down, contributed to the loss.

Lloyd's ASM

07 August 2015

Association badge

Over the years Bill and I have received different items of militaria which we are asked to return. This is one such case but it is very close to home for me.
My niece Rebecca goes to school in Townsville and through that connection my sister in law was given the badge which is pictured below. The hope was that I could get it back to the owner. As soon as I saw it I recognised it as a corps association badge. In this case for the Royal Australian Corps of Transport (RACT). These badges have a membership number on the reverse so I know we could track the owner.
Yesterday, I happened to be in Townsville and I knew that I would be seeing a friend of mine who is the Commanding Officer of one of the logistic units at Lavarack Barracks. He is also RACT, as is his Regimental Sergent Major, so I handed over the badge in the hope the member was local. Through their corps association the badge owner, a Corporal now posted to Canberra, was tracked down very quickly thanks to the membership number. The badge is now in the post.
Thank you Colin B, WO1 Andrew K, Min and most of all Rebecca and her school.

The returned medal tally is now 1705.

04 August 2015

William Portway

This is one of the the most touching stories that I can remember.

Completely out of the blue I recently received an email from an RMC classmate of mine who now works at a local primary school. As part of a Centenary of Anzac school project one of her students was researching a WWI soldier because he had found a medal in a house he used to live in. The student's name is Ben and through my friend, sent me with all the service details.
The soldier was 484 William Charles Portway. Prior to WWI he had served 12 years in the Northumberland Fusiliers. This experience meant he was promoted to Sergeant while serving at Gallipoli. By 1916 William was fighting in France, had been commissioned and was wounded in action.
William's son was Bruce who served in the RAN during WWII. After the war, Bruce and his family moved to Canberra and lived in the suburb of Campbell.
That is where Ben comes in to the story. In a cupboard Ben found William's 1914 - 15 Star which he wanted to return to the family. My classmate gave me a letter that Ben wrote and I was able to trace William's grand son, Don, up until 1980 but I then lost the thread. However, with a rather unusual surname, there was a small number of possible options to choose from and try to contact. I took a punt on one listing and found Don..
A lovely turn of events it that Don will be in Canberra next week and there are tentative plans for him to meet Ben and receive the medal.
I can't express how impressed I am with Ben and his efforts to see this medal back with the family. I'll quote just a short part of his letter: 'I would like to return it because I feel his family would like it'.

The returned medal tally is now 1704.