McCASLIN or McCAUSLAND ? – Black box found in Auckland City rubbish skip nearly cost a family the loss of two brother’s military heritage.

76830 –  GEORGE INGHAM McCASLIN 

307907 / 32178 – GEORGE INGHAM McCASLIN / McCAUSLAND 

NZ 513910 – WILLIAM ARNOLD McCASLIN    

In late December 2016 I received an email from Graeme H. regarding a number of medals that had come into his possession.  Graeme had been given a black, rusty tin box of medals by a local man, a known vagrant who was partial to the drink.  The man had told him that his cousin had given him the box (an old style cash box) saying he had ‘found’ it in a rubbish skip in Auckland City.  The man could not recall if his cousin had told him exactly when or where he had found the box but not knowing what to do with the medals (or perhaps a pang of conscience helped?) gave them to Graeme.

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Some of the medals were named and suspecting that they might have been stolen, Graeme consulted the NZ Police for any reports of missing medals of the named recipients.  There were none so he then approached the NZDF for assistance.  As the NZDF does not normally undertake the research and return of medals that have been found, the very helpful staff at the NZDF Personnel Archives and Medals section directed Graeme to Medals Reunited New Zealand for this our services.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

On first inspection the tin box contained nine medals, a medal ribbon bar, a military identity (dog) tag, an NZRSA lapel pin (1972) and a selection of badges.  The following is the detailed contents:

  • WW1 – British War Medal named to: 76830 GNR. G. I. McCASLIN.  N.Z.E.F.
  • WW1 – A 1 year overseas service chevron (single embroidered & inverted red tripe) – WW1 type.
  • WW2 – Defence Medal, War Medal 1939/45, NZ War Service Medal 1939/45 named to: G. I. McCAUSLAND 307097 (privately engraved)
  • Note: all WW2 medals were issued un-named (a cost saving measure) – having these medals privately engraved is of immense help in identifying ownership if lost or stolen.
  • A medal ribbon bar containing the ribbons of: British War Medal, Defence Medal, War Medal 1939/45, NZ War Service Medal 1939/45 WW2 – 1939/45 Star, Italy Star, War Medal 1939/45, NZ War Service Medal 1939/45 – unnamed as issued.
  • NZ Army Long Service & Good Conduct Medal named to: 32178 L/CPL. G.I. McCAUSLAND. NZ. REGT (issued 1962)
  • A 1 year and 2 year overseas service chevron (single and double printed & inverted red stripes) – WW1 and WW2 types.
  • A personal Identity (‘dog’) Tag with leather thong named to: NZ 513910 McCASLIN. W. A 
  • A 2NZEF hat badge, three ‘NEW ZEALAND’ shoulder & epaulette titles (as worn on WW2 uniform)
  • An RSA lapel pin dated 1972 and impressed with the service number: 513910

It was clear the medals and badges had been awarded to soldiers of the NZ Army – the dual naming, differing service numbers on the medals and ID Tag, and duplication of some of the WW2 medals also suggested they belonged to two separate soldiers, McCaslin and McCausland, but who were these men and why were their medals in the same box? 

I started my research by obtaining summaries of service from the NZDF.  Karley C. and her team at PAMS were able to provide a breakdown of service for each of the soldiers assigned any one of the THREE service numbers which appeared on the medals and ephemera in the box.  With this information I was able to group the named and un-named medals and accompanying badges to the correct soldier.  The two soldiers concerned were brothers, George Ingham McCaslin / McCausland ** and William Arnold McCaslin, both of whom had lived and died in Auckland.

The following is a synopsis of each soldier bearing the service numbers shown: 

76830 Gnr. George Ingham McCASLIN** NZ Field Artillery, NZEF – a Builder’s Labourer born in Auckland in May 1890, enlisted at Devonport in May 1917, aged 20 years.  He was placed in the Royal New Zealand Artillery.  Initially classified as only fit for Home Service, Gnr. McCaslin’s repeated attempts to serve overseas finally succeeded and he embarked with the 43rd Reinforcements, NZ Field Artillery for England in Oct 1918 – one month before the Armistice was declared.  The 43rd Reinforcements continued on to England and were largely involved at Codford with the recovery and reconstitution of equipment and the repatriation of veterans from France and Belgium.  Gnr. McCaslin was discharged after returning to NZ in August 1919.

Length of Service:   1 year and 4 days

Awards:  British War Medal, 1914-18 

307097 Cpl. George Ingham McCaslin – c1942

NZ 307097 Gunner/Corporal George Ingham McCASLIN / McCAUSLAND** – NZ Heavy Group, Royal NZ Artillery / NZ Regiment (Infantry), 2NZEF – a Builder between the wars, George re-enlisted in 1939 for WW2 service however his age (42)  restricted him to Home Service.  In 1943 Gnr. McCaslin changed Corps to Infantry and had his service extended with the NZ Temporary Staff.  Shortly thereafter he was promoted to Lance Corporal (L/Cpl), temporarily making Corporal (Cpl) before the end of the war in 1945.  With the post war reorganization the NZ Interim Army was made up of numerous Home Service soldiers who were contracted for short service since they were familiar with the routines necessary to manage soldiers and equipment being repatriated from overseas service, and the consequent mass discharge of veterans returning home.  Accordingly George’s service was extended again until 1948, but as a L/Cpl. 

32178 Lance Corporal George Ingham McCASLIN/McCAUSLAND** NZ  Regiment (Infantry) – was enlisted into the Regular Force of the NZ Army in 1948 as a Storeman/Clerk/Driver and permitted to serve until he reached the mandatory retiring age for rank in 1957.  This date also coincided with his completion of 20 years military service (19 years 211 days + accumulated leave) making him eligible for long service benefits and a veteran’s pension.  L/Cpl George McCaslin’s accumulated service to 10 Oct 1957 also qualified him for the award of the NZ Army’s Long Service and Good Conduct Medal (18 years service required) in 1957; presented in 1962.

George (affectionately known as “the Major” by his siblings) remained a lifelong bachelor living in the same house at 10 Rhyde Street, Western Springs which had belonged to his parents.  George worked as a truck driver/carrier in and around Auckland after his discharge from the Regular Army until he retired; he died in Auckland in March 1968 aged 77 years.

Length of Service:  19 years 211 days

Awards: WW1 – British War Medal (named to McCASLIN); WW2 – Defence Medal, 1939/45 War Medal, NZ War Service Medal 1939/45 (all privately engraved to McCAUSLAND); NZ Army Long Service & Good Conduct Medal (named to McCAUSLAND); one overseas service chevron

Unclaimed Medal

Having dissected George’s service I noted that his post WW2 accumulated service made him eligible to receive another recently introduced NZDF service medal.  The New Zealand Defence Service Medal was instituted in April 2011 to recognize service after September 1945, the minimum requirement being three complete years of service.  George’s Regular Force service also entitles him to the clasp ‘REGULAR’ on the ribbon.

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**McCASLIN or McCAUSLAND** ?

George McCaslin had enlisted in 1917 with the surname “McCASLIN”, the name he was officially known by throughout his military service.  However the reason George had his WW2 medals and Long Service & Good Conduct Medal engraved with the surname “McCAUSLAND” remains speculative.  Perhaps the most plausible contributary reason could be that George, a bachelor and long serving soldier, may have wanted to distance his association with the McCaslin surname.  The McCaslin families having lived in the same area of Auckland for nigh on 80 years by 1960, would have been well known.  Papers Past record a number of indiscretions (nothing too serious) in the 1920s and 30s by the then younger members of the family.  Perhaps George who was pursuing a military career wanted to avoid any connection to dubious reputations ?  George Ingham no doubt also had his moments explaining the variations of his surname from ‘McCaslin to McCauslan/d’ that he used for whatever reason?  It is interesting to note that whilst George was listed in the Army and for all of Auckland Electoral Rolls he appeared in as “McCaslin”, he would probably be delighted to know that at least he is recorded somewhere between both in the Waikumete Cemetery records – “McCAUSLAN” (without the “D” – yet another variation!).  Many McCaslin family members from George and Wilf’s era are also buried at Waikumete, George being the only one with a surname variation – which was never formalized by deed poll !

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NZ513910 Pte. William Arnold McCaslin – c1944

NZ 513910 Private William Arnold McCASLIN – 24 (NZ) Battalion, 2NZEF – this service number was impressed onto a single identity tag and on the rear of the RSA lapel pin.  William (Bill) Arnold McCaslin, the younger brother of George, was born in Newton Auckland in Dec 1909.  On occasions Bill’s name was recorded as Wilfred McCaslin but ‘Wilfred’ was an unofficial name although he was always known as ‘Wilf’ by the wider McCaslin family.  Wilf was a Tramway Conductor at the time he was enlisted into the NZ Regiment (Infantry), 2NZEF in June 1943.  

Pte. Bill McCaslin embarked with the 11th Reinforcements (2nd Draft) in March 1944,  served with the 24th NZ Battalion in Italy, was wounded by machine gun fire which struck him in his right thigh and groin, and returned to NZ at the end of Feb 1945, discharging from the NZ Army on 31 August 1945. 

Length of Service: 2 years and 69 days 

Awards: 1939/45 Star, Italy Star, 1939/45 War Medal, NZ War Service Medal, 1939/45 (no medals named); two overseas service chevrons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post war, Wilf McCaslin worked as a painter in Auckland until he retired.  He had married Muriel Georgina MURPHY in 1932 and together they had one daughter, Carol WILLIAMS.  Wilf died in October 1973 aged 65 years and is buried in the same cemetery as brother George – Waikumete Cemetery. 

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Finding the McCaslins …

I started with the Ancestry family trees to identify George’s parents and siblings names to see if there was any clue there.  George had a fairly uncommon middle and last name so hopefully would not be hard to locate – in fact there were eight different trees that contained George McCaslin, his parents AND grandparents.

George’s Ingham’s parents were George McCASLIN (1869-1943) from Auckland, and Sarah INGHAM (1869-1939) from Lincolnshire, England.  George Ingham’s grandfather, also George, was from Armagh in Northern Ireland and had married Anne/Annie HALLIGAN.  They were residents in Auckland by the time George Ingham’s father was born in 1869.

Of George (snr) and Sarah’s children, George Ingham was the eldest of eight (4 boys and 4 girls), three of whom died either at/or within two years of their birth, and a fourth died at 22 years of age.  George’s middle brother was Robert Edward (Eddie) McCaslin (also a painter), and his youngest sibling William Arnold (‘Wilf’) McCaslin.

A combination of Electoral Rolls, BDM records and the telephone White Pages gave me the information I needed to firstly make contact with the only living child of four, of the late Eddie McCaslin and Vera Gertrude DELL – their 92 year old daughter Doreen (McCaslin) T., the closest living direct descendant of George Ingham McCaslin.  Doreen is George’s niece and still lives in Auckland.  When I contacted Doreen she was able wrap the case up by firstly confirming her ancestry for me, and secondly, by putting me in touch with her uncle Wilf McCaslin’s only daughter, Carol W. who also lives in Auckland.

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Doreen tells me that since she has outlived most of her generation of McCaslins (and many younger ones) she has inherited the role of McCaslin family historian and presently holds medals and other memorabilia of some of the now deceased extended McCaslin family members.  Accordingly, I will be sending George’s medals to Doreen, and brother Wilf’s medals and badges to his daughter Carol, this week.   As George’s closest living direct descendant I have also sent Doreen an application to claim George’s NZ Defence Service Medal. 

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My thanks to Graeme for placing his trust in MRNZ to resolve the ownership of these medals and badges.  Grateful thanks also to Karley C. and the team at PAMS for assisting my research.

The reunited medal tally is now 127.

 

 

 

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