This search took Bill almost a decade.
For followers of this blog, the competition between Glyn and myself to how quickly we can return medals, does at times lead to some funny stories about the nature of the return and how quickly medals have been returned.
The story of the return of 37607James Elliott Bruce fits neither category. I received James’s medal at Christmas 2008, it had been found in a skip amongst discarded rubbish. It shows a hard life, particularly the edge. But it was not till I sat down on the 21 January 2009 that the search started. Almost as soon as it started it stopped; the reason? James had spent most of his life moving between Victoria and NSW, from Country Victoria, Daylesford actually where he was born to Prahran, where he was living when he enlisted to fight during the First World War. During which he was wounded and later invalided from the Army. It was at about this time, four months after starting my search, that I hit a brick wall for the first time. It would not be the last. What triggered it was being told that War Graves had no date of death for James and no resources available to me to find a date of death, let alone a burial site.
At this point I packed away the medal, wrote up my notes, and put a reminder in my electronic diary to revisit James in three months’ time. In three months’ time I still could not find a date of death, however I did find that he had lived in Albury for a short during the 1930s. But then he disappeared and the search was temporarily archived for four months this time. And so would go the search, stopping for four months, starting again, always from scratch. Remembering that the Internet is not only in constant expansion, but it is also much of it is being rewritten at the same time and if not addressed, these changes can have a profound effect later, that you may not be aware of.
By April 2012 I had found James grave and his date of death, 29 August 1958. I had also found the date of death of his wife Jessie May Bruce (nee Hutchings) in 1965, but this was only after an exhaustive search through the family of another Jessie May Bruce. Unfortunately, you guessed it, the wrong Jessie May.
It was at this point I finally came to the conclusion that based on the information that was available, or rather the lack of, James and Jessie had never had any children.
I then went back and did a quick check through Jessie’s’ family looking for newspaper clippings, checking interments in cemeteries, but to no avail.
It was now September 2015. The search has started and stopped countless times but it was still continuing. It was now to go back and revisit the rest of James’ family tree.
In a previous story I wrote that how easy it is for a family to fragment with time and people moving, not just from suburb to suburb, but state to state. It was at this time that I started to research James’ sister, Charlotte and her line. It was this that took me to James’ nephew, Leslie, and sadly a failing memory. At this point, having reached that plateau where things don’t make sense, I again packed everything away. In January this year I started again, this time finding that Leslie had passed away. I then went directly to his children and one of James’s great nieces. It was at this point that the search finally came to a halt. Success at last.
When the medal went off yesterday it did so with the address of a medal mounter who will not only remount the medal but clean it so that it can be worn. I also included instructions how Leslie’s family can claim his medals for WW2 service medals.
The returned medal tally is now 2112.