28 December 2015

WWII Engineer Pacific Star

The Pacific Star awarded to VX74647 Robert John Smyth has had a rather tough life. As can be seen in the picture, someone has defaced the naming in an effort to remove Smyth's details.
The medal came to me in 2005 via the Wagga Wagga RSL sub-branch after it was found near Rutherglen, VIC. 10 years ago there wasn't much information available online and all I could find was that his NOK was named Vida and in 1963 his address was care of a railway station in country Victoria.
Bill and I have put in quite a bit of research effort over the years but without any success. Today I revisited the research and had almost immediate success. One of the new resources available is a Victorian BDM search function. This provided enough information to work out that Smyth married Vida Thompson in 1937. Vida died in 1958. Using this information I found Vida on an Ancestry family tree and I've now been in contact with Helen whose husband is related to Vida.
The returned medal tally is now 1761.

23 December 2015

Colonial Auxiliary Forces Long Service Medal - awarded 1907

For each easy search we do there are probably another 10 which are far more difficult. This particular piece of research was at the upper end of the difficult scale.
In May 2015 I received the Colonial Auxiliary Forces Long Service Medal awarded to 550 J Anderson from Ann W-F of Mackay. Anderson served in the 4th Australian Infantry Regiment. This was a pre-federation militia unit which was centered on the Hunter Valley region of NSW. There were companies in Newcastle (A), West Maitland (B), Singleton (C), Wallsend (D), Tamworth (F), Armidale (G) and Lambton (H).
There are no records readily available for this period so research is difficult. The impressing on the rim of the medal had one vital clue, apart from the name and unit, which helped me. This was the date when the soldier became eligible for the award. The date reads '7.10.05'. Using this date I found the gazette entry and eventually two newspaper articles which mentions the award of the medal to Anderson and other members of 4th AIR. That was the hard bit and took over 4 months to reach this point.

Knowing a location led me to other articles which gave me the full name of John Anderson and his wife Agnes. John and Agnes lived in Lambton, a Newcastle suburb and where H Company of 4 AIR were located.
Once I had John and Agnes' full names it was easy to follow them and their children through the NSW BDM records and the electoral rolls. John and Agnes had a daughter named Aspah who married Joseph Sneddon. Their first son, James, died a birth. Their second son was Archibald Watson Anderson Sneddon who married Ettie Moore. These quite distinctive names helped this part of the search. Archibald and Ettie had a son Desmond who, with Clare, had a son Greg. I had finally found the current generation but the search wasn't over.
The electoral rolls available on Ancestry.com finish in 1980. From these I knew that Greg lived in the Hunter Valley but his exact address eluded me. There was one entry in the Whitepages with Greg's initial combination so I took a punt and gave the number a call. I was lucky enough to have found the right family and Greg knew all the names I mentioned having researched his family tree. Greg is John's great great grandson.
At some point this medal has been converted to wear as a brooch which was a common occurrence in the past.
Thank you to Ann who sent me the medal.
The returned medal tally is now 1760.

12 December 2015

Eddie Biddle

This afternoon I received an email from Henry of the Longreach RSL Sub-Branch. One of their members had a WWII group of medals which didn't belong to their family. Henry forwarded me the details of NX82791 Edward Masterman Biddle and a picture of the medals with a request to look for the family since Eddie had died in 1990.
Eddie was pretty easy to follow through the electoral rolls and there is also quite a bit of information about him on the internet.
It took about 30 minutes (sorry Bill) to track down Eddie's nephew Colin. I've now connected Colin with Henry and the medals will be returned in the near future.
The returned medal tally is now 1763.

Robert Haynes

More great work from Bill.

Sometimes it is the story behind the return of medals that is more interesting than the actual search itself.
It is six years since Fiona Curtis, a serving officer in the Australian Army, contacted Glyn asking advice in regard to how she could go about finding the WWII medals awarded to the grandfather VX35794 Private Robert James Haynes. The medals had been stolen 20 years ago.
Now let's step forward six years to when the Melton Vietnam Veteran's Association were renovating their premises. It was here that Vietnam War veteran Ray Evans found a set of WWII medals in the back of a cupboard. Ray tells us that no one know where they came from or who put them there. Ray's best guess is that someone had anonymously handed them in and they were put away for safe keeping. With out trying to be to humorous about it, they were safe until they were discovered recently. Like many presented with a challenge, Ray jumped at it and rang all the Haynes in the Melton area. Unfortunately, he had no luck finding either the veteran of the next of kin.
It was several weeks later that someone referred Ray to a 'bloke at Watsonia RSL, Bill Wyndham, who returns medals'. That referral started the next phase of the search.
It was a search that took me two days to finalise thanks to the data generously provide by War Graves, information from the Victorian State Library and the electoral rolls. This all led me to Robert's daughter Robyn who lives in Perth.
This was all finalised last week when Robert's son Frank and granddaughter LTCOL Fiona Curtis met Ray and the team at Melton. The family thought there was to much risk in having the medals posted so they chose to collect them. This photo is of
Photo and story courtesy of the Leader Newspaper
The returned medal tally is now 1759.

Melton Vietnam veteran Ray Evans (centre) returned the World War II medals of Robert Haynes, which were stolen 26 years ago, to his son Frank Haynes and Frank’s daughter, Lieutenant Colonel Fiona Curtis. Picture: ANDY BROWNBILL

FRANK Haynes thought the medals his father Robert received for service in World War II had been lost forever following a burglary in 1989. 
But 26 years after they were stolen, they have been reunited with the family and it’s all thanks to Melton’s Vietnam veterans.
Melton veteran Ray Evans discovered the medals in the back of a cupboard, when the association was preparing to move to its new home at the Willows Historical Park earlier this year.
And so, he set about trying to find their rightful owner.
“When I found them tucked away in the back of a cupboard no one knew how they got there. It’s possible they were handed in anonymously many years ago,’’ Mr Evans said.
“But the name Robert Haynes was engraved on them so I rang every Haynes in Melton to give them back and had no luck.”
He said a chat with friends in Sunbury weeks later about the medals led him to Bill Wyndham of the Watsonia RSL, and within two days Mr Wyndham found Robert’s daughter, Robyn Speijers in Western Australia.
“I was going to post them to her, but the family didn’t want to risk losing them again so we arranged for them to be picked up personally. I was just so proud that we could do this,” Mr Evans said.
Mr Haynes, who lives in Mooroolbark, travelled to Melton with his daughter Lieutenant Colonel Fiona Curtis, from Newton, on November 19, for the priceless medals.
He said he was shocked and thought his father’s medals were lost forever.
“Dad died in 1995, aged 78, and for years we have been compiling his war history in a scrap book, but it was never complete, until now.”
Lieutenant Colonel Curtis said to be able to wear her grandfather’s medals on Anzac Day meant so much.

06 December 2015

Richard Taylor

My part in this search started when I received the British War Medal awarded to 6394 PTE Richard Taylor from the Tamborine Mountain RSL. Richard served in the 25th Battalion and his mother Margaret was listed as his NOK.
It was pretty easy to follow Richard through the electoral rolls after the war. He married Lillian Smith in 1928 but they had no children. Lillian died in 1957 and Richard in 1960.
Richard had one sister, Agnes. She married in 1921 but died the same year. Richard's father was William Taylor but I couldn't find any further information about him or Margaret (nee Park) so I focused my research on Lillian's family.
Lillian was the daughter of Benjamin Smith and Eliza Alice Bardsley. I found this information from the Queensland BDM which was a piece of luck as there wasn't any identifiable immigration records to look at as Benjamin and Eliza were from the UK.
Next I found Eliza on an Ancestry family tree and the owner, Tony, and I confirmed the family connection. Tony was also able to tell me that Lillian's brother was Emmott Smith who was killed in action on 30 October 1918.
Thanks very much to John Brookes, President of the Tamborine Mountain RSL who sent me the medal.
The returned medal tally is now 1755.

James William Henry Hart

564 DVR JWH Hart's medals are impressed with the name of the last unit he served with: the13thMachine Gun Company. Prior to that he was posted to the 36th, 42nd and 52nd battalions. He was wounded in action once when he received a guns shot wound to his left side.
Originally from Brewarrina, NSW, James was from a large family although he didn't marry. His brother Thomas was his next of kin. Thomas had a son also called James William Henry Hart which confused the research a bit. It is through Thomas' family that I've found a relative to receive James' Victory Medal.
Thanks to Vincent M for sending the medal to me.
The returned medal tally is now 1754.