24 June 2017

Leonard Bridger



More great work by Bill.

The story of the medals of 439080 FSGT Leonard Arthur Bridger and the
search for his family is so very much like many of the searches Glyn and I
have conducted lately.
Derek who had the medals was never very sure of their history, other than
the fact that his father, a jeweller, had come across them over 30 or more
years ago. While he had tried, he was never able to find Leonard's
family.
Derek admitted that, try as he might, he too had been unsuccessful in his
search. It was this that took him to ANZAC House in Melbourne and then to
me.
Perhaps the greatest problem I faced as I started the search was the total
absence of anything written or otherwise about Leonard. War Graves had nothing, and neither did any newspapers. It was only through searching cemetery lists
that I found Leonard and his date of cremation. I also found his wife
Dorothy's date of cremation. However, both sets of ashes had been scattered.
Now at this point I could perhaps point to a long and complicated search,
ploughing through 'Trove', the State Library et al. But I can't.
It was 6.01 PM on the 21 June 2017 when I posted a query on the Australian
Surnames Genealogical Group web site.
By 7.44 PM again on the 21 June 2017, I had Leonard’s family all laid out in
front of me.
Then it became a decision who was Leonard's medals to go to?
It was a question I did not have to decide, the family did it for me.
Leonard's medals are going to his nephew David. They will join Leonard's
watch and many of his other personal things that were willed to him.
I am often asked how medals get lost. Well first take the ribbons off
them, as the medals are pictured. Now put them in a small
metal or wood box, along with a mix of other coins, particularly 'old' round 50
cent coins, buttons, the odd broach, badges and cuff links and they hide
very well. Very well indeed.
The returned medal tally is 2114.




22 June 2017

James Bruce



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.
 

 

John's medals



The lengths that Bill went to to complete this search are in no way reflected in this story.

We sometime forget how easy it is for a family to, over time, fragment. People die, others remarry, children are born, others are adopted, and names change. Most of all people move, not just from suburb to suburb but state to state.
The search to return John’s service medals has been on ongoing story since 1950, when he was killed in a motor-cycle accident, an hour after his sister’s marriage. This was also 5 days before the birth of his first and only child. Out of respect of the families wishes none of the research that identifies any of the people involved will be published.
Other to say that John’s medals are at last, home.

The returned medal tally is now 2111.