DANIEL LAURENCE SLOAN ~ Stolen medals found in Lake Forsyth by an eagle-eyed Little River resident.

36369 ~ DANIEL LAURENCE SLOAN    

Readers who have cycled the Little River Rail Trail or travelled State Highway 75 from Christchurch to Akaroa on Banks Peninsula will be familiar with Lake Forsyth.  The state highway and Rail Trail borders the SW bank of the lake.   Mid-way along the lake is the Little River Freedom Camp, a small vehicle park on the lake shore used  to accommodate freedom campers.

David Hunter is a Little River resident and a part-time voluntary Pest Control Officer for the local area.  Feral goats that roam the lake banks denuding the vegetation are Dave’s main focus of attention.  Part of Dave’s ‘patch’ is the Freedom Camp vehicle park which he uses as a vantage point from which to scan the banks and hills on the far side of the lake for the pesky goats.  Looking for a better position from which to scan the banks nearer the head of the lake, Dave approached the mouth of Caton’s Creek, a small feeder creek that empties into Caton’s Bay on Lake Forsyth.  In doing so he spotted what appeared to be a submerged suitcase, it handle showing just above the waterline. 

Caton’s Creek at its outflow into Caton’s Bay, Lake Forsyth

Contents (minus medals) after an initial clean by Dave Hunter

He dragged an old black vinyl suitcase out of the creek which had evidently been there for some time given it was covered in slime and reeked.  He drained the water and tossed it into his truck taking it back to his office at Little River where Dave could check out the contents with the local police constable who shares his office facilities.  On opening the case the contents was just a mass of rotted and stinking clothing.  The constable declared the contents worthless, fit for the tip and left.  Dave continued to inspect the contents and spotted what appeared to be a soggy black case similar in size to a small toilet bag.  He washed the sludge off the case that on closer inspection showed the words PHILLIPS on one side.  It was an older style electric razor case.  He opened the case and emptied out the contents of sludge and what appeared to be a tangle of jewellery that showed the effects of long term immersion in water – rust, corrosion, and in some cases falling apart.  The first thing that caught Dave’s eye was two medals (minus ribbons).  

Once disentangled and washed the contents, Dave accounted for the following: two WW1 medals, a mans and a woman’s watch, a sterling silver crucifix and length of chain, a short length of decorative silver chain, eight pairs of cuff-links, four gold shirt studs, two gold tie clips, a gold horses head tie pin, a ‘mother of pearl’ collar stud (from a hospital nurse’s uniform), five badges associated with schools – St. Josephs, St. Mary’s and Xavier College (including Prefect and First Communion), three enamelled scout badges and a metal propelling pencil leads case capped with a black eraser.

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Dave had seen the TV3 “Good Sorts” programme which had featured MRNZ in May 2017 and so contacted me and told me about the medals.  It was an interesting story and I was keen to help him find a home for the medals. 

The two WW1 medals were a British War Medal, 1914-19 and a Victory Medal, both named to 36369 RFLM. D. SLOAN N.Z.E.F.  Other than the usual tarnishing associated with the silver content in the British War Medal and some light corrosion in the coating of the brass Victory Medal, both medals were in remarkably good order given the long period they had spent underwater.  The characteristics of both medals had actually inhibited the corrosion process plus the fact the water was fresh and they were not exposed to air.  Had the medals been in sea water the result would have been significantly different.  Neither medal showed any evidence of having their original ribbons.  Being originally of silk these may have completely rotted away or possibly been previously removed.

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Daniel Laurence Sloan was one of five sons and one daughter born to Patrick Sloan (1854-1902) of Lurgan, Armagh and Ellen McKEARNEY (b:1856) of Armagh, County Armagh in Northern Ireland.  Patrick and Ellen had married at the Portadown Roman Catholic Church at Drumcree in Armagh in January 1877 and shortly after decided to immigrate to New Zealand.  Patrick Sloan (26) came to NZ ahead of wife Ellen to get established and assess the long term prospects of their life in NZ.  He arrived at Lyttelton in 1880 and found work as a farm labourer at Kaipaoi and Rangiora. 

Ellen Sloan (24) and her three year old daughter Mary Bridget (1879) sailed from Plymouth aboard the iron clipper Rakaia on 15 April 1882.  Within days the Rakaia was forced to return to Plymouth after a crew member had been stricken with Smallpox, which had also infected the ships surgeon (doctor) and started to spread.  The doctor demanded the ship return to port where it remained for over a month while it was fumigated and whitewashed.  The ship once under sail made good passage and after a relatively uneventful voyage of 97 days, the Rakaia arrived at Lyttelton on 03 Sep 1882.  A number of ships that had left long before the Rakaia were still quarantined at sea with several ships having outbreaks of the disease on board. 

NZ Shipping Company’s “Rakaia” at anchor in Port Cooper (Lyttelton Harbour) – c1880.  Source:  NZ Shipping & Marine Society

Patrick Sloan met the ship however Ellen and Bridget along with the 150 or so other assisted immigrant passengers on the Rakaia were not permitted to disembark until every passenger had undergone the trying ordeal of testing for Smallpox.  Fortunately the Rakaia proved to be free of the disease and passengers were permitted to leave the ship.  Patrick had arranged accommodation in Addington where they would stay until a more permanent arrangement could be made.

For their first 12 years in Christchurch the Sloans moved numerous times to whatever rental accommodation was available, mainly in the Addington/Sydenham/Spreydon areas.  It was during this period the first generation of New Zealand Sloan family members were born – Henry Aloysius – Henry (1883) was followed by Patrick Bernard – Pat (1885), Michael Joseph – Joe (1887), Daniel Laurence – Dan (1889), Francis Leo – Frank (1893) and Charles Alphonso – Charlie (1895).  The last born child, daughter Ellen Veronica (known as Nell) was born in 1897 not long after Patrick (snr) had secured the family’s first semi-permanent residence in Rosewarne Street, Spreydon.

Four years later Patrick Sloan passed away suddenly in Feb 1902 aged 47, and was buried in the Linwood Cemetery.  Pat’s nine year old son Charlie would join him in 1905, and eventually Ellen his wife, in 1930. 

Following Patrick’s death Ellen and her brood remained at Rosewarne St. until required to move, firstly to St. Johns Road, Woolston followed by 13 Stanmore Road, Richmond.  By 1910 it was clear to Ellen that her largely adult family of two daughters and five sons, required a larger and permanent house.  No. 3 Simeon Street in Sydenham (opposite the gates of the Sydenham Cemetery) would become the Sloan family home for at least the following 20 years. 

Four of the Sloan boys by this time were of working age: Henry 24 (Carpenter), Pat 21 (Carpenter), Joe 19 (Machinist), Dan 20 (Letter-carrier for the Post & Telegraph Dept.), and Frank, 17 (Telegraph Cadet).  The youngest, Ellen 11, was still at school while the eldest of the Sloan siblings, Mary Bridget (1879), known as Bridge, remained at home with her mother assisting to run the household and care for her six siblings.

For King and Empire

The ‘Call to Arms’ for military service with the NZEF was one the Sloan boys readily responded to.  When the National Registration Act 1915 was introduced, all NZ males from 17 to 60 years were required to be entered on a national register.  Volunteers had fulfilled the first few reinforcement requirements for the Gallipoli Campaign but as volunteer numbers slowed, the Military Service Act of 1916 was introduced empowering the government to conscript men from 20-45 for service at home or abroad.  Soldiers were selected for NZEF service via a monthly ballot, and subject to medical fitness and appeals.

The five Sloan brothers, Henry, Pat, Joe, Dan, and Frank were registered and all were balloted for enlistment in the 1916-1917 year, being provisionally added to the 1916 1st Division Reserve Roll.  This meant they were eligible to be called to serve at any time from 1916 onward.  Henry, Pat, Joe and Dan were to be infantrymen while Frank, a telegraphist with NZ Post & Telegraph Dept., was listed to serve as a Signaller.   

Henry Sloan appealed his ballot and was granted an exemption on the basis he was the primary bread winner of the family after his father’s untimely death, and besides, at 33 years old he was in the older age bracket of eligible men.  There was no shortage of those from younger age groups with less responsibility who were available to serve ahead these men.  Pat Sloan at 30 years of age was in a similar situation and whilst remaining eligible to be called-up, was one of the fortunate few who did not have his name drawn.  The three youngest brothers Dan, Joe and Frank Sloan all served with the NZEF overseas.

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36369 Rifleman Daniel Laurence Sloan was first to be called up. 27 year old Dan Sloan started training at  Trentham on 20 Sep 1916.  He embarked HMNZT 75 Waitemata for Plymouth, England on 19 Jan 1917 with the ‘H’ Company, 4th Battalion, 21st Reinforcements of the 3rd NZ Rifle Brigade.

After infantry training at Sling Camp at Bulford on the Salisbury Plain, the 21st Reinforcements embarked for France on 06 June 1917 – this was also the start date of the NZ Division’s major operation to take Messines Ridge.  The following day, 07 June, the 3rd Brigade’s LCPL Samuel Frickleton’s heroic work in dispatching a number of machine-gun posts that were holding up the advance on Messines,  with bombs and bayonet was rewarded with a Victoria Cross.  On 26 June Rflm. Sloan was posted to the ‘B’ Company, 4 Battalion and sent into the field to join his unit.  The 2nd and 4th Battalions were to relieve the 1st and 3rd who were plugging a gap in the Brigade’s front line on the Messines–La Basse Ville Road which had eventuated after the NZ Division’s  successful attack on Messines Ridge. 

On 1st September, 2 and 4 Battalions had been given the task of cable laying (communications) for the Second Army in the vicinity of Zillebeke, south-east of Ypres.  The Battle of Passchedaele was launched on 12 October and as 4 Battalion advanced into fierce resistance on the Oct 15th, shrapnel from exploding artillery severely shattered Dan Sloan’s left hand and lower arm.  After receiving immediate aid from the NZ Field Ambulance, Rflm. Sloan was moved back to a Casualty Clearing Station.  It was determined from the extent of his injuries that major surgery was required.  He was immediately evacuated to the nearest major medical facility, No. 14 General Hospital at Wimereux near Bolougne.  Once his injuries were stabilised and he was fit enough to undergo sea travel, Rflm. Sloan was evacuated to England and admitted to No. 2 London General Hospital on 21 October.  His left hand and lower arm assessed as being unsalvageable were amputated just below the elbow.  On 22 November he was transferred to the NZ Convalscent Depot at Weybridge, to Oatlands Park Hotel.  This hotel was one of three facilities the War Department had requisitioned as part of No. 2 NZ General Hospital, Walton-on Thames, that made up the Convalescent Depot.  From here Rflm. Sloan was given a month’s leave at the NZ Discharge Depot at Torquay pending his return home NZ.  Ffollowing a final check of his amputated arm and a prosthetic fitting, Rflm. Sloan was given final clearance for repatriation to New Zealand.  Dan Sloan departed Liverpool on 28 Feb 1919 on the SS Zealandic and arrived in Wellington on 01 March 1919.  Rflm. Daniel Sloan was officially declared “no longer fit for war service on account of wounds received on active service” and discharged from the NZ Forces on 29 Mar 1919.

Silver War Badge

Awards:  British War Medal – 1914 -18, Victory Medal; Silver War Badge (NZ 19158)

Overseas Service:  2 years 42 days

Total NZEF Service:  2 years 191 days

 

Dan Sloan returned to 3 Simeon Street in Sydenham.  After a long period of leave and rehabilitation, he picked up where he had left off continuing to work for the Post Office until his retirement in 1954 at age 55.  Dan remained a bachelor all his life, living with his siblings at 144 Simeon Street until he died on 12 August 1965, aged 76.  Dan is buried with his bachelor brother Joe (66) in the Ruru Lawn Cemetery, Christchurch.   

Note:  Both of Daniel Sloan’s brothers, Frank and Joe, served overseas:

25092 Sapper Francis Leo SLOAN was a 22 year old Telegraphist with the NZ Post & Telegraph Department when he was called-up on 08 March 1916.  Being a male employee of the P & T Department Francis had been required to join the territorial Post & Telegraph Corps in Christchurch as part of the conditions of he national Military Service Act.  All large business that had a high proportion of male employees were required to form territorial units for the maintenance of critical infrastructure should the country come under enemy attack.  Since Spr. Sloan had been a Telegraphist for the P & T he was made a Signaller and assigned to the Signals Section in the Corps of NZ Engineers (NZE).  He embarked on 26 Jun 1916 with the 14th Reinforcements of NZ Engineers on HMNZT 96, Maunganui bound for Devonport, England.  On arrival the NZE Signallers were sent from the NZ Depot at Sling Camp (which had become too congested) to a new training camp for the NZ Engineers, Signallers, Tunnellers at Hitchin (60 km N of London) where they were prepared for deployment to France.  Spr. Sloan was posted to the Headquarters, 4th NZ Infantry Brigade Signals Section and embarked for France on 28 May 1917.  From the NZ Base Depot at Etaples, Spr. Sloan went into the field with the Brigade HQ’s Signals Section in Feb 1918.  In Jan 1919 he was promoted to LCPL and by 30 Jun was bound for NZ aborad the SS Prinzessin.  LCPL Frank Sloan was discharged from the NZEF on 29 Jul 1919.  He had served for 3 years and 6 days overseas, a total period of 3 years and 144 days NZEF service.  For his war service Frank Sloan was awarded the British War Medal, 1914-1918 and Victory Medal.  

58654 Private Joseph Michael* SLOAN was 30 years of age at enlistment and was working as a machinist for the NZ Railways at their Addington Workshops.  Originally called up in June 1916 he was rejected due to vision problems he had experienced since birth.  Despite this fact he was balloted in May 1917 and accepted by a travelling Army Medical Board for service overseas, possibly an indication of just how short of manpower for reinforcements the NZEF was.   Pte. Sloan embarked HMNZT 94 Arawa in October with ‘E’ Company of the Auckland Infantry Regiment’s (AIR) 30th Reinforcements, and sailed for Liverpool.  On arrival at Sling Camp Pte. Sloan was re-assigned to the AIR’s Reserve Battalion due to experiencing on-going problems with blurred vision.  He was transferred from Sling Camp to the NZ Command Depot at Codford for an evaluation of his sight at No 3 NZ General Hospital.  Pte. Sloan was assessed as having a Congenital Astigmatism of both eyes – this is an irregular curvature of both corneas which causes blurred vision, but not necessarily bad enough to warrant glasses.  As a result he was classified “no longer fit for war service on account of defective vision” and left Devonport for NZ on Christmas Eve, 1918.  Pte. Joe Sloan was discharged from the NZ Forces on 26 Feb 1919 after 1 year and 109 days overseas, a total period of 1 year and 282 days NZEF service.  For his war service Joe Sloan qualified for the British War Medal 1914-1918.   

born Michael Joseph Sloan; enlisted as Joseph Michael Sloan and known by this name in all subsequent records.

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The search for the Sloan family through my normal channels of Ancestry, Electoral Rolls and Cemetery records indicated there were more members of the family who had died in the 1950s and 1960s, than had survived. 

By 1925 Ellen and her family of adult children had moved from one end of Simeon Street (No. 3) to the other at No. 144.  Brothers Henry and Frank had both married in 1922 and 1923 respectively, thereby reducing the number living at home.  Henry to Katherine LOCKHART (remained childless) and Frank to Eileen Annie MITCHELL. Both couples lived at separate addresses in Spencer St, Addington. 

BDM records show the Sloan family appears to have been at its zenith, numbers-wise, in the early 1950s then steadily declined.  After Ellen Sloan’s death in 1930 aged 82, only the unmarried Sloan family members remained at 144 Simeon – Nell, Joe and Dan.  By 1956 Mary Bridgit, Henry Aloysius, Patrick Bernard and his wife Aida Eileen Lavinia O’BRIEN (also childless), had died.

After Aida Sloan’s death husband Pat returned to live in the family home in Simeon St. where all four siblings would remain until their respective deaths.  Dan, Joe and Frank Sloan had passed away by 1965 leaving only Nell, a life-long spinster, as the last living occupant of 144 Simeon Street.  

The surviving adult members of the Sloan family after 1965 were Henry’s wife Katherine (d.1974), and Frank Eileen’s two adult children, Kevin Patrick and Barbara Josephine Sloan.  Nell, the sole survivor of Patrick (snr) and Ellen Sloan’s children died in Christchurch on 22 Dec 1977 aged 79.

Sunbeam’ lends a hand …

When I came across an Ancestry family tree owner who had been researching a Sloan family from Sydenham in Christchurch, I thought I found a kindred connection who could help short circuit my research to a quicker conclusion.  Jo-Anne ‘Sunbeam’ s research of her Sloan family bore a number of similarities to mine – family members with the same first names, who had migrated from Ireland to NZ, some with WW1 service, and had lived at 51 Milton Street.  With these similarities I felt the families must be connected in some way.  Having lived in the Sydenham area myself I was very familiar with these streets and knew that Milton Street intersected Simeon Street about 100m from one of the Sloan’s former addresses at No. 3, and just 400m from 144 Simeon Street. 

After giving Jo-A Sunbeam the background to my search for Daniel Sloan’s descendants, Jo-A soon took the wind out of my sails and put me straight – unbeknown to me her research reference to “51 Milton Street” had been to 51 Milton Street, Nelson and not 51 Milton Street, Christchurch!  Both Sloan families in fact were completely unrelated.  Jo-A did however salvage my disappointment by very kindly sending me some information she uncovered during her research which related to my Sloan family.  Jo-A sent me a chart of Sloan burials in Christchurch which included Francis Leo Sloan and two of his grandsons, Bernard and David Sloan.  In addition she had located two references to the June 2017 funeral of Raymond Boakes (88), one being an internet memorial page and the other an In Memoriam notice that appeared in an on-line copy of a Mairehau church’s parish newsletter.  Both references had stated, “Dearly loved partner and best friend of Barbara Sloan …”.  The chances of there being two or more ladies named Barbara Sloan in Christchurch I guessed would not be that great. 

Jo-A Sunbeam’s information resulted in some useful leads which saved me research time.  However it was the last item Jo-A sent me that was significant.  I had identified Frank and Eileen Sloan’s two eldest children from NZ Census record as being Robin Francis and Susan Marie Sloan.  Jo-A Sunbeam had sent me a Linked-In website page for a Robin Sloan who was a Small Business Consultant with the ANZ bank in Melbourne.

To summarise: Francis Leo and Eileen Annie Sloan had two children – Barbara Josephine and Kevin Patrick Sloan.  Jo-A’s reference to Barbara showed she was living in Christchurch.  Barbara’s brother Kevin had married Noeline Frances COX and together had a family of four: Robin Francis (b.1950), Susan Marie (b.1955), Bernard  Joseph (b.1964) and David Stephen (b.1964).  Ironically the two youngest brothers were born on the same day of the month and in the same year, but both had died at an early age – Bernard (b.26 Jan 1964 – d.1984, age 23) and David (b.26 Dec 1964 – d.1987, age 32).

Chief Post Office, Christchurch, 1906

From this I was able to ascertain that Barbara was the senior traceable surviving member of Francis Sloan’s family followed by her deceased brother Kevin’s children, Robin or Susan.  A check of the White Pages showed Barbara still to be living in Christchurch but when I phoned, the owner of the number was not named Sloan and had never heard of Barbara?   I later found out Barbara Sloan had moved to Hamilton after her partner’s death.  

That left me with Robin and Susan.  Susan had not been resident in Christchurch for some years and having no immediate reference either marriage or emigration records, I focused my attention on her elder brother Robin Francis Sloan.  Locating Robin would also accord with my general aim of reuniting medals with a male family member since it is they who generally carry the family surname, ideally the same as that of the deceased veteran.  

I checked out the Linked-In page reference Jo-A sent me.  After several inquiries to ANZ New Zealand without success, I was informed the ANZ bank NZ and ANZ bank Australia while the same generic bank, they are not linked when it comes to employee information, phone directories or email accounts.  A banking helpline directed me to an ANZ Australia on-line enquiry website to try and make contact. 

A couple of days later, success!  An email and a phone call from Rob Sloan confirmed his link to the Simeon Street family.  Rob was still with the bank in Melbourne (just) working three days a week as winds down to retirement. 

Rob Sloan left NZ in 1971 when he was seconded to the Melanesia International Trust Company in the then New Hebrides which was then being promoted, largely by the British and to a lesser extent the French, as a tax haven.  He ended up in Australia at the beginning of 1974.  Since then he has been back to the New Hebrides and also to London where he married, Jane Collet MILLS in 1981, and returned to Australia.  Rob has been a banker with ANZ Bank Australia ever since.  Rob and Jane have a family of two – Timothy and Katrina.  

My contacting Robin could not have been more timely on two counts – first, had I not researched this case for a few more months there might not have been a Linked-In reference to Rob Sloan, and second, when I spoke to Rob he said he was flying to NZ the following day for seven days to visit his mother (of whom I had no reference) and sister in Havelock North.  Noeline Sloan is a retirement village resident.  

But more importantly for me Rob was Daniel Laurence Sloan’s great nephew – I had my direct descendant.  When I told Rob of Dave Hunter’s find, he recalled his “Uncle Dan” fondly and particularly remembered his leather hand that had been fitted in England before Dan Sloan came home in 1919.  The timeliness of contacting Rob and his return to NZ allowed me to courier Rflm. Dan Sloan’s medals to Rob before he returned to Australia. 

The remaining jewellery and the electric razor case required some detailed cleaning and repairs after being in the water for so long, before it could be returned to the family.  Dave sent this to me separately and I set about cleaning and repairing the contents as best as I was able.  When I had finished I sent a photograph of the result to rob and Sue.  When next we spoke Sue said she thought she recognised the case and was able to confirm some of the contents had belonged to her and Robin.  Both had attended Catholic schools, St Marys, St Joseph’s and Xavier College and several of the badges badges and mementos were from those school days.  The Phillips electric razor case Susan also believed she recognised as her father’s.  Kevin Sloan had been living in a Christchurch townhouse in 1979 when the house was burgled; the case was one of the items stolen.  That would also possibly tally with the contemporary styled clothing Dave Hunter had identified in the suitcase.  Apart from Daniel Sloan’s two war medals, the intrinsic value of the jewellery and other items in the electric razor case was probably not great, but the sentimental value to both Rob and Sue was of much more significance. 

Rob and Sue were amazed at what Dave had found given nearly 40 years had elapsed since the burglary.  When I told Rob about the medals he said he would be very proud to be the custodian of his great uncle Dan’s war medals.  Once the ribbons have been replaced and the medals properly mounted, Rob says they would definitely see the light of day on  future ANZAC and Remembrance Days.  The discovery of  Dan Sloan’s war medals has revived Rob and Sue’s somewhat distant memories, not only of their great uncle Dan but also of the two other Sloan family members who served – grandfather Frank and his brother, Rob and Sue’s great uncle Joe Sloan.   All three brothers were indeed fortunate to have returned home in (almost) one piece after willingly answering the call to fight for King and Country in that so-called ‘war to end all wars’

Xavier College Prefect

Future commemorative occasions are likely to hold new meaning as the service and sacrifice of Dan Sloan and his brothers Frank and Joe, are remembered with gratitude.  The memory of 36369 Rifleman Daniel Laurence Sloan will be honoured when nephew Rob is next able to wear his uncle’s medals with pride.  A much more worthy fate for Daniel Sloan’s hard earned war medals I would suggest, than being abandoned and submerged in a rural South Island lake.  

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My grateful thanks to Dave Hunter for making the find and referring it to MRNZ.  Thanks also to amateur genealogist Jo-Anne Sunbeam for going the extra mile to help me reach a successful conclusion of this case. 

The reunited medal tally is now 207.

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Comments

  1. Never ceases to amaze me either Marie :-))

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