My grandfather’s World War II service

My mother had always said that her father didn’t serve in either of the world wars. The stories I remember were that he was too young in the First World War and too old in the Second World War, and that he was a farmer and needed at home to grow food. He was born in late December 1900, and was a farmer and grazier all his life, so I accepted these stories without question.

There was also a story about how he had to go to help search for the Japanese that broke out of the camp at Cowra during World War II. I don’t know if he ever found any; probably not or it would have been more of a story.

Yesterday I was searching the NameSearch at the National Archives of Australia website for others of the same surname and there he was:

NAA NameSearch

My grandfather is the last one. As you can see by the lack of an icon in the “Digitised item” column, it hasn’t been digitised yet. If it had been I would be able to see, and download, the images of each page in the file straight away. I can pay $16.50 to have it digitised early, before its ‘turn’, or $25 to have it digitised and colour photocopies sent to me.

I’ve paid the $16.50, and now I wait. It may take up to 90 days for a file which is “Not yet examined”, but I can’t imagine there will be anything in there that would cause it to be restricted once it has been examined.

If only I’d searched earlier! Why didn’t I? I think because I accepted what my mother told me. I don’t always believe what people tell me, but parents are different. Of course, my mother also told me that the Easons came from Wales and I have proven that they came from County Tyrone in what is now Northern Ireland. Talking about her own father is different, I guess.

So the lesson for today is – If there’s an index, search it! What have you got to lose?

This post was first published as If there’s an index, check it! on my blog NSW GenealogyI am trying to keep all my family posts in one place.

52 Weeks to Better Genealogy – Week 19 – military records

I don’t have any military ancestors, unless you include Fijians from the time before Christianity ended tribal warfare. So when the National Archives of Australia put digitised World War I Service records online a couple of years ago I went looking for the siblings of my direct ancestors who were born in the years that would have made them eligible for military service.

I found four, three of whom didn’t return from France.

Ernest Harold Goode (1885-1917), of Millthorpe, NSW, second son of William Goode and Elizabeth Grace Pascoe. Killed in action in France 25th February 1917.

George Harold Goode (1887-1918), of Millthorpe, NSW, third son third of William Goode and Elizabeth Grace Pascoe. Killed in action in France 2nd June 1918.

Douglas James Stewart (1899-1918), of Holbrook, NSW, eldest son of James Simpson Stewart and Annie Lawson. Killed in action in France, 10th August, 1918.

Eric Eason (1894-1976), of Blayney, NSW, eldest son of John Eason and Lily Adelaide Grace Goode. Discharged 4th September 1919 on disembarkation in Sydney. Hid mother Lily Eason, nee Goode, was the eldest sister of Ernest and George Goode.

I have started to examine one of these files in more detail. Douglas James Stewart was my grandmother’s first cousin. He was born and raised in Holbrook, which is near Albury in southern New South Wales. He was just barely 18 when he joined the Australian Expeditionary Force in Sydney on Sunday, 18th February, 1918. My mother says she was told that he looked older than he was, and the women of the town used to give him white feathers, calling him a coward. He joined up as soon as he could:

NAA: Base Records Office Australian Imperial Force; B2455, First Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers. 1914-1920; 3013311, Stewart Douglas James : SERN 3718

Both parents had to sign the form as he was under 21 years.

The whole file is 61 pages, and although some pages are certified copies of other pages, most are original records. There is the correspondence the AIF Office received from his father James Simpson Stewart requesting further details about his son’s death, requesting a photograph of the grave, and enquiring about medals. Copies of replies from the Office are there, as is an inventory of the personal effects sent to the next of kin.

It’s very sad. I never knew Douglas James Stewart, nor did my mother, and I’ve never even seen a photograph of him. It’s sad that he has been reduced to pieces of paper in an old file, but it’s brilliant that he can be remembered now that the pieces of paper are available for me to view at home on my computer.

Lest we forget.