~ ORCHARD (NZ), BEHAN & GRAINGER (AUST) ~
It is a relatively rare occasion when I am contacted by the NZ Police for help with reuniting medals, but two requests within two weeks was unprecedented! Just after I had wrapped up the ELVY medal case for the Avondale Police (see previous post), I turned on my phone to start the day’s work when a message arrived from a retired Army officer whom many readers will know, Colonel (Ret’d) Tom O’Reilly. Tom had been reading the February 25th edition of the Opotiki News when he spotted a request from the Whakatane Police seeking information regarding the ownership of a bag of military medals that had been hand in. Some of the medals were named to PD Orchard, HW Behan and RB Grainger. The newspaper article included the name of the Police Officer handling the inquiry and a contact phone number. Tom thought of MRNZ and flashed me a text message with the article (above) to see if we could help – yes we can; thanks for the heads-up Tom!
Being a newspaper photograph, it was grainy and indistinct. I enhanced it as best I could to better identify what was depicted. Some of the detail I was able to confirm later once I received close-up photographs from the Police. The bag contained eleven medals and five other items, which I have listed below.
The items in the photograph we identified as follows:
Upper row – left to right:
- War Medal 1939-45, named to 61490 H. W. BEHAN – Official issue
- Australian Service Medal 1939-45, named to 61490 H. W. BEHAN – Official issue
- Gold Window Locket with photos both sides
- Anniversary of National Service 1951-72 Medal [Australia 2001], named to 2706151 B. GRAINGER – Official issue
- Australian Defence Medal , named to 2706151 B. GRAINGER – Official issue
- UK National Service Medal 1939-1960 – commemorative, Unofficial
- 1939-45 War Medal (un-named as issued) – Official issue (mounted with Orchard’s LS & GC)
- New Zealand Army Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, named to 36363 SGT P. D. ORCHARD RNZEME – Official issue
- Australian Service Medal 1939-45 (un-named) – REPLICA
- Conscript – I Served medal (un-named) – commemorative, Unofficial
- National Service 1951-1972 medal (un-named) – commemorative, Unofficial
- Gold, bar brooch decorated with ivy leaves, lotus flowers and a honey bee with safety chain attached
- War Medal 1939-45 (un-named) – REPLICA
- Royal Navy Mine Clearance Service (1919), hat badge – Official issue
- Ribbon bar of NSW Corrective Services medals – from left: The National Medal, NSW Corrective Services Meritorious Service Medal, NSW Corrective Services Long Service Medal
- Gold, one-sided medallion frame/fob (blank centre)
- Gold, Federation era boomerang bar brooch with word “AUSTRALIA” central, a kookaburra and an unidentified white gemstone, and a double chain with two Scottie dogs attached, one white and one black.
“Spike” Dickey – Whakatane Police
Armed with a couple of hours worth of research notes, I had enough to tell the Police (Snr. Const. Dickey) what exactly was in the bag and so called the number that was in the newspaper. Have you ever tried to call someone at your local police station or local anything of late, or worse, someone at a non-local government office? – not an easy exercise; the ‘patience of a saint’ is a pre-requisite. After several more attempts …….? The next day I finally made contact with Senior Constable Paul “Spike” Dickey at the Whakatane Police Station, the case officer – bugger, he was required in court most of the day so we arranged to discuss the following day.
When at last we connected, Spike indicated he was keen to get the medals back to the families of those named on several of the medals, so I offered my services. Spike said the bag had been left at the bar of the Whakatane RSA. Witnesses said an unidentified man had gone into the RSA, went up to the bar and pushed the bag across to the barman, then left without a word! One of the club officials took the bag in to Spike hoping the Police would know what to do with them? It was at this point Spike ran the advertisement in the local papers hoping a claimant would come forward, but no one did. I offered MRNZ’s services to identify the contents of the bag and to research the named medal recipients for which he was grateful.
Analysis of the bag contents
I started with the medals, the easiest first – shouldn’t be too hard to find out who P. D. Orchard was and trace his movements around New Zealand. A WW2 issued War Medal 1939-45 and a New Zealand Army Long Service & Good Conduct Medal (LS & GC) were court mounted together, as for wearing. The War Medal was un-named but the LS & GC medal was, having the serviceman’s number, rank, name, and corps impressed on the rim – 34343 SGT. P. D. ORCHARD R.N.Z.E.M.E.
Most military medals are undated so there is no obvious indication of when a medal might have been awarded. The only hint as to the time period that this medal was issued, was the Sovereign’s effigy that appears on the Obverse (front) side of many official Imperial and Commonwealth medals. Even this can be misleading as the stock of medals from a previous monarch’s reign continues to be issued until new medals with the incumbent’s effigy are issued. Sgt. Orchard’s medal bore the effigy of HM, Queen Elizabeth II indicating his 18 years of qualifying service required for the medal, could reasonable be expected to have been completed after HM The Queen ascended the throne on 6 Feb 1952. The only other hint of the era in which an Army LS & GC medal was awarded to NZ soldiers was the wording on the ribbon suspension bar. Up until 1984 NZ soldiers received an Imperial (British) LS & GC medal that has the words REGULAR ARMY on the front of the ribbon suspender. From 1985, a New Zealand Army specific LS & GC medal was issued that has instead the words NEW ZEALAND on the suspender. The ribbon and medal design have remained unchanged.
P. D. ORCHARD – British & NZ ARMY
Peter Desmond Orchard is listed in the NZ Census and Electoral Rolls from 1957 to 1981 (limit of current records) whose occupation was Soldier, variously located at addresses in Waiouru and Papakura. The following information was also gathered from this source: Peter had been married to Joyce Helen BARTLEY (1930-2010), a Nurse Aide born in Dover, Kent. Peter and Joyce had at least one daughter, Marie Claire Orchard. Following his discharge from the Army, Peter was employed as a Storeman and a Warehouse Manager. Both had become New Zealand citizens on 11 May 1973, and their listed address in 1981 had been 22 Taipari Road in Te Atatu, Auckland; the Orchards later resided in Howick until Peter Orchard’s death in 2004.
Using Ancestry I located Peter Orchard’s birth place and date – Portsmouth, Hampshire, England on 07 May 1928, and his date of death in Auckland on 28 May 2004 at 76 years of age. Joyce Orchard had died in 2010, the remains of both being interred together in Waikumete Cemetery, Auckland. I also discovered that Peter’s parents, his father William Thomas Orchard (carpenter) who had been a Sapper in the Royal Engineers, and mother Mildred, also featured in the some of the Papakura rolls, living rurally from 1972 to 1978. Both parents deceased at Papakura in 1989 and 1998 respectively, and are interred at the Papakura Cemetery.
PAM helps with service records
In order to determine the veracity of the award, I needed information regarding Sgt. Orchard’s prior service in the British Army as well as qualifying date for his award. It was obvious to me that Peter had not been in the NZ Army long enough to meet the time qualification of 18 years (15 years is now the requirement) for the medal, so the remainder of his qualifying service was probably in the UK? It was essential to confirm this as it could indicate if any of the un-named medals in the bag could also be his. To find this out I would need some help from the NZ Defence Force, specifically from the Personnel Archives and Medals (PAM) section at Trentham Military Camp.
I contacted PAMs and to my very great surprise a former military colleague, Mr Geoff Fox, answered the phone. Geoff’s expertise had been retained after he concluded his military career which was re-directed to a full-time Defence Civilian appointment in Personnel Archives and Medals, specifically as the subject matter specialist in determining medal entitlements. I discussed the situation with Geoff and followed up with emailed details. Geoff very kindly went swiftly into action and within a couple of days provided details of Peter Orchard’s service in the British Army, and in the New Zealand Army.
SGT P. D. Orchard – REME, British Army
Peter Orchard had started his army career as a Cadet, joining at 14 years and 5 months of age which also coincided with the commencement of National Service in the UK. He joined the General Service Corps of the Regular Army to complete his national service commitment in October 1942 and received his first promotion to the rank of Lance Corporal. the war having ended, L/Cpl. Orchard was transferred to the Royal Army Service Corps in 1946 as a vehicle maintainer and driver. He served with the 1st Brigade, British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) in Germany from Aug 1947 to June 1954. During his time with the BAOR, Peter progressed from Corporal to Sergeant while with 809 Armoured Transport Squadron (tracked armoured personnel carriers), and in 1951, Sgt. Orchard was posted to 36 Company (an armoured car company), RASC – BAOR 1. During a reorganisation, this unit was absorbed into the Corps of Royal Electrical, Mechanical Engineers (REME). In May 1954 Sgt. Orchard RNZEME had reached the retiring age for his rank and took his discharge in June having completed 10 years in the British Army. He obviously had his eye on a career further afield.
WO1 P. D. Orchard – RNZEME, NZ Army
The Orchards left England in October 1955 aboard the SS Captain Cook and disembarked at Wellington on 24 Nov 55. On 17 Oct 1955, 36363 Craftsman (CFN) Peter D. Orchard enlisted in the New Zealand Army. Peter’s first posting was to the Army Schools at Waiouru for Corps training. In spite of 10 years service in the UK, he started at the rank of Craftsman (Private equivalent) in the RNZEME however was given trade seniority for his existing qualifications. In December he was posted to the Northern Military Districts RNZEME Workshops at Papakura and gained his promotion to Corporal in April 1956. Over the next 14 years Peter was posted to 16 Field Regiment (artillery), the National Service Training Unit (NSTU), 1st Infantry Brigade Workshops, and the Waiouru Workshops. He progressed through the ranks to achieve the top non-commissioned rank of Warrant Officer Class 1, RNZEME. In March 1963, then a Sgt, Peter Orchard was awarded the NZ Army Long Service & Good Conduct Medal for the completion of 18 years of irreproachable service. On 28 Feb 1974, WO 1 P. D. Orchard RNZEME was discharged having reached the mandatory retiring age for his rank – Peter was 47 years of age and had combined service of 10 years with REME and 18+ years with the RNZEME, his military service totalling 28 years and 2 months military service.
Peter and Joyce remained in the Papakura area for some years before moving to Auckland where he worked as a Warehouse Manager before retiring. Peter Desmond Orchard died in Auckland on 28 May 2004, aged 76.
The National Service 1939-1960 commemorative medal was only applicable to Peter’s UK service and although not named, may be confidently assumed to be his, possibly purchased as a souvenir of his national service prior to enlistment into the Regular Army.
Awards: War Medal 1939-45 (un-named as issued) – Official ; NZ Army Long Service & Good Conduct Medal (named as issued) – Official; UK National Service 1939-1960 commemorative medal (un-named) – Unofficial
Note: Peter Orchard’s UK service started in 1942 and accordingly qualified for the War Medal 1939-45.
LAC H. W. BEHAN – RAAF
Tracing the recipient of the second pair of named medals proved a little more elusive in that no rank or arm of Service in which he served appeared on the edge. Both medals had been issued for Home Service (the Home Guard) during the Second World War. Had they been issued for war service overseas they would most likely have been evidence of one or more of the eight campaign stars attached, or at least be in the bag. The impressed naming on the medals was: 61490 H. W. BEHAN.
Ancestry and Sydney Electoral Rolls provided my start point. Hilton Warren Behan was born in Bellingen, NSW on 18 Aug 1904. He came from a large family of eleven children, most of whom had spent their lives in Bellingen. His extended family was even larger. Quite an number of descendent Behans still live in Bellingen, its environs and throughout New South Wales.
Hilton Behan married Sybil Florence WALL (1912-1981) in September 1930 at Redfern in Sydney. Their three children were Gwendoline Iris (Behan) WILLIAM, Hilton Warren BEHAN (Jnr) and Sybil June (Behan) GRAINGER. It appears that Hilton divorced Sybil and in 1947 was re-married to Thelma Florence MATHESON at Glebe, Sydney. I did not find any children attributable to the couple.
Research of Hilton’s military service was tricky as there are no on-line personnel records of those who served in the RAAF. What led me to the arm of the Service he served in came about as a result of a rather bizarre circumstances that had me scratching my head for some time. In the course of following Hilton’s movements through the Electoral Rolls, one of the first entries showed his being employed during the war years at an Aircraft Depot at RAAF Station, Richmond that is still operating and located about 30 kilometres west of Sydney. However, I also found a disturbing record for the Court Martial of A222179 Corporal H. W. Behan of No.2 Aircraft Depot, RAAF Base Richmond in 1974! For Hilton to still be serving in 1974 seemed inconceivable, but not unknown as men who had Second World War service have been enlisted from time to time some years after the war, usually for any number of admin type jobs, but occasionally for a technical role where their previously accumulated experience and skill proved invaluable. These jobs generally did not attract any promotion with most enlisted at the Leading Aircraftman (LAC) or Corporal level.
My suspicions were aroused when I saw from Hilton’s birth date that he would have been 70 years of age in 1974 – highly unusual to still be serving! A change of service number was not unusual so did not raise any flags. The picture became clearer when I found an Electoral Roll record for an H. W. Behan and a W. Behan, both in the same roll, same year, similar locations but both with wives with different names. The reconstruction of Hilton Behan’s family tree became necessary to prove who exactly was who. Long story short, Hilton Warren Behan (of war years service) had two daughters, and a son who was also named Hilton Warren Behan! Further, Hilton W. Behan (Snr) had died in 1965 therefore it had been Hilton W. Behan (Jnr) who had been Court Martialled (CM) in 1974, which made sense. References to H. W. Behan, RAAF, living at Campsie, Parkes in 1972 and at RAAF Richmond pre-1965 through to 1974, and then to W. Behan in the Windsor area (Windsor being the nearest town that services RAAF Richmond) lent further weight to the fact that listings for H. W. Behan and W. Behan post 1965 referred to the same person.
My conclusion that W. Behan had been the RAAF Corporal was later proved correct when I was able to clarify with an Australian correspondent that H. W. Behan (Jnr) had been known by his second name – H. Warren Behan. Perhaps this was to avoid being confused with his father’s name, or possibly a post CM decision to lower his profile? The CM records being a legal documents would necessarily have to be entitled with his correct and full birth name – Hilton Warren Behan, not the name he was generally known by.
I had spent more time than intended sorting this out but as I was idling through various web links to WW2 veterans in NSW, I stumbled onto the Quirindi RSL Sub-Branch website. This showed a link on the front page to a site entitled “100 Years Honouring Anzacs” which listed every Australian WW2 veteran by name and town of enlistment. The site is apparently linked to the network of RSLs country-wide. I dialled in Hilton Warren Behan and bingo! …all the details I had would have liked from the start appeared on screen … it showed his date and place of birth, that he had enlisted into the RAAF at Sydney on 27 November 1941 and discharged on 28 August 1944 with the rank of Leading Aircraftman (LAC), and that his wife’s name was Sybil Behan. I could even printout an elaborate coloured Certificate of Honour and add his photograph if I so wished. The only thing that was not shown was his service number but that was on the medals anyway.
So, I now had proof positive that I had the right man and that his was war service thereby entitling him to the War Medal 1939/45 and the Australian War Service Medal 1939/45. Clearly his was war service and therefore the un-named National Service 1951-1972 and Conscript commemorative medals were irrelevant to the service of Hilton W. Behan Snr. His son Warren Behan was also out of the question since he was too young to have participated in the First NS Scheme, and the RAAF did not conduct NS during the Second Scheme.
Awards: The Australian Service Medal 1939-45 (named as issued) – Official, War Medal 1939-45 (named as issued) – Official*, Australian Service Medal 1939-45 (un-named) – REPLICA**, 1939-45 War Medal (un-named) – REPLICA **
* Australia and South Africa were the only Commonwealth countries to name WW2 service medals before issue.
** Replica medals are often worn in lieu of the originals medals to eliminate loss or damage to the originals.
PTE R. B. GRAINGER – National Service, AUSTRALIAN ARMY
The two medals named to 2706151 R. B. Grainger I recognised as being the Australian Defence Medal (I wear one myself) and the Anniversary of National Service Medal. Named medals without rank or an arm of Service included, are key indicators that the medals most probably belonged to a National Serviceman, or “Nasho” as they were known in Australia.
Australia has used compulsion to help fill the ranks of its armed services on four occasions during its history. The first was 1911–1929 when the universal military training scheme was implemented. Wartime conscription was then employed for WW2 from 1940–45. Conscription or National Service (NS) as it became known after the National Service Act was passed, continued as part of Australia’s defence preparedness for the next three decades. Between 1951 and 1972, a total of 287,000 young Australian men were called up in two separate schemes for compulsory military training conducted by Navy, Army and the Air Force. Nashos could elect which Service they wished to undertake their service with. No women were conscripted under the National Service Act.
The First NS Scheme ran from 1951-57 requiring all 18 year old Australian males to undertake 176 days service with either the Navy, Army or Air Force, followed by two years in the Citizen Military Forces (territorial reserve service). The RAAF conducted National Service training for the First NS Scheme only.
The Second NS Scheme was run from 1965-1973 and required all 20 year old Australian males to complete 24 months full time, continuous service plus three years in the Active Reserve. This Scheme was implemented predominantly to conscript soldiers to maintain Australia’s commitment to the Vietnam War (1965-1972); 212 Nashos were killed or died on active service in Borneo and Vietnam.
Note: The ribbon attached to the unofficial UK National Service 1939-1960 commemorative medal is in fact the ribbon that belongs on the unofficial Australian National Service 1952-1971 commemorative medal (see below).
Medals awarded to career service persons always include the person’s service number and rank held at the time they qualified for the award. I looked for a record to confirm R. Grainger had in fact been a Nasho and that the medals were a genuine entitlement. After scrutinising all the obvious websites for military records that might include Grainger’s number and Service including the National Archives and Ancestry, it was apparent National Servicemans’ records were somewhat elusive. To avoid making an official request for Grainger’s military file (which would take months), I started looking for alternate sources such as ex-military service clubs or organisations for information relating to national service. The website of the Returned Services League (RSL – same as the NZRSA) led me eventually to a comprehensive website of the National Service Association of Australia (NSAA) which conveniently also included a link to a national Nominal Roll of Nashos. The Roll however claimed to be not necessarily complete and relied to some degree on others to submit missing names or alterations.
There were seven Grainger entries showing the location they completed their NS which had included all Services – in Army, Navy and Air Force. The interesting thing was the variety of service number compositions that were used to identify Nashos which reflected various peculiarities to each of the three Services, and of the two NS Schemes, remembering of course that the RAAF had only conducted NS training during the First Scheme, 1951-1957. I had hoped to make a quick find and so solve the Service identity question but, no such luck – R.B. Grainger was not listed!
Back to the National Archives for an in-depth look at everything Grainger, not just military indexes. Buried deep in the pages that mentioned every Grainger in Australia whose name had appeared in a public document or record, I found a vague reference to R. Grainger and a service number – 2706151 – in a non-military related record, but that was all – no explanation and no mention of which Service it applied to. What now? I was drawn back to the variety of service numbers that had been listed with the NS nominal roll on the NSAA website and looked for information that might at least explain the numbering system used for NS trainees that I could relate to Grainger’s number. I found a partial answer in www.diggerhistory.info.
All NS numbers included a reference number that identified the state the trainee was from: 1 – Queensland, 2 – NSW, 3 – Victoria, 4 – South Australia, 5 – Western Australia, 6 – Tasmania, and 8 – Papua New Guinea. RAAF NS service numbers consisted of a six digit number with the letter prefix “A”, e.g. A 543210 – the first number 5 indicated Western Australia so ruled R. Grainger out of RAAF service. Navy numbers were of four digits suffixed with NS, e.g. 4567 NS – this also ruled our man out. Army NS numbers were prefixed by a single number which indicated the state the soldier was from (the same numbering regime as used by the RAAF), followed by an oblique stroke and then another number of 1-7 digits, e.g. 5/1234567 (5 = WA). A catch-all statement re Army numbers said that this format was not always the case, and that the oblique stroke had only applied to the First Scheme Army numbers but not to those of Vietnam era numbers (1964-1971).
This was getting complicated! Having ruled out the Navy and RAAF, I decided to end the search at this point satisfied with a better than 80% conclusion that Robert Grainger had been an Army Nasho from NSW. His service number certainly proved he was enlisted in NSW, 2706151 (2 = NSW).
Official recognition for ‘Nashos’
For years, numerous representations had been made by the National Service Association of Australia to the Australian government to consider some form of medallic recognition to acknowledge the service of the 187,000 National Servicemen who undertook the compulsory training and those who died on active service. Nothing had been forth coming. As a result, profit driven ‘junk’/vanity/tin medal manufacturers filled the gap with a raft of commemorative medals covering every type and place of service world-wide, including one for Australian National Service. The medals could be purchased by anyone which has led to a proliferation of ‘wannabe’ veterans sporting these things, much to the mortification and derision from genuine veterans. Whilst not illegal to wear, being unofficial medals they were/are not permitted to be worn on the same medal bar as official medals, or to be worn at the same time that official medals were/are worn.
Australian medal reforms had preceded New Zealand’s reforms in 2000. These had resulted in a more liberal approach to medallic recognition for active and meritorious service by both countries, thereby largely rendering the ‘junk’ commemorative medal market redundant.
Read more here: ‘junk’/vanity/tin
The two medals issued to 2706151 Private R. B. GRAINGER and thousands of other Nashos was the result of a change of policy by the Australian government. After intense pressure, the government acquiesced and on the 50th anniversary of the inception of National Service in Australia, an official commemorative medal was issued. Finally the government would belatedly acknowledge the contribution and sacrifices made by Australian National Servicemen who had been conscripted for national and active service which had cost 212 Nasho lives in Borneo and Vietnam. The medal was named the Anniversary of National Service Medal, 1951-1972 (ANSM).
The medal was instituted in 2001 and awarded to soldier’s who had completed their obligation under the National Service Act 1951 (As Amended).
A second medal instituted in 2006 was also made available to Nashos. The Australian Defence Medal (ADM) was introduced as one of a number of Australian medal reforms, that recognised the service of all Australian Defence Force personnel, past and present, who had completed a minimum period of four years full-time or accumulated service, after 04 September 1945. The medal was extended to all National Servicemen who met the qualifying criteria as set down for the National Service 1951-1972 medal. The ADM was/is not awarded to personnel discharged for disciplinary reasons.
The two remaining un-named, unofficial medals were commercially produced commemorative mementos that were retailed through various ex-service organisations and replica medal outlets. The National Service 1951-1972 commemorative was initiated by former Nashos to fill a perceived lack of government acknowledgement of their conscripted service. The Conscript – I Served commemorative is one of a raft of look-alike medals considered by veterans to be retail ‘junk’/vanity/tin trinkets. These were produced in numbers purely for profit and targeted ‘wannabe’ veterans and ex-service members who had not qualified for an official medal.
As Robert Grainger had been the only named medal owner who had undertaken Australian National Service, it was logical to assume both commemoratives more than likely had belonged to him, purchased prior to the implementation of the official Anniversary of National Service 1951-72 Medal in 2001, and the Australian Defence Medal in 2006.
The following items in addition to the medals were present in the bag:
Medal ribbon bar
The medal ribbon bar depicted the three official Australian medals above, one national and two state awards. The National Medal (15 years) is an Australian award for long service by operational members of specified eligible organisations. In the case of Corrective Services, eligibility is restricted to officers with custodial duties (prison officers and wardens). The NSW Corrective Services Meritorious Service Medal is awarded after 20 years of service and the NSW Corrective Services Long Service Medal after 15 years.
None of the jewellery items in the bag was named; one item pointed towards possible Australian ownership but that was all the clues their were. My analysis of the items was as follows:
Gold windowed locket, photographs on both sides
Side 1: Also of low grade plate gold and a 26 mm diameter, the locket has a photograph of Field Marshal Frederick Sleigh “Bobs” Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts, VC, KG, KP, GCB, OM, GCSI, GCIE, KStJ, VD, PC, FRSG (30 Sep 1832–14 Nov 1914). Field Marshall Roberts was a British general of the Victorian era who became one of the most successful British military commanders of his time. More often referred to as Lord Roberts VC, his son Lieutenant, The Honourable Frederick Hugh Sherston Roberts, VC, mid, Order of the Medjidie 4th Class, was also awarded the VC, but posthumously – he died of wounds following the Battle of Colenso during the Boer War. Roberts and his father were one of only three father-son pairs to be awarded the Victoria Cross.
Side 2: The picture is of Lieutenant General Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell, OM, GCMG, GCVO, KCB, KStJ, DL (22 Feb 1857–8 Jan 1941) was a British Army officer, writer, founder and first Chief Scout of the world-wide Boy Scout Movement, and founder with his sister Agnes, of the world-wide Girl Guide/Girl Scout movement.
Note: The photographs are both well known portraits that I was able to match up from the internet. The window locket is possibly a patriotic souvenir as both officers were key players in the Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902, and publicly admired as heroes.
Gold medallion/frame, or fob
This item gave no hints at all. The gold was not hall marked so was probably a low grade gold plate or wash. The locket/frame was 23 mm in diameter with a small suspension ring at the top, indicated it was designed to hang from a chain or brooch.
Gold brooch bar and chain
The brooch bar is of low grade gold plate, embellished with lotus flowers and elm leaves at each end, with a honey bee central. These are all symbols of love and the future, common themes of Federation era jewellery. The chain may have had the locket or medallion attached?
Australian Federation bar brooch
A gold brooch Boomerang, Kookaburra with Scottie Dogs plus a small indeterminate jewel central is a Federation era (circa 1900) antique bar brooch that possibly may have had the locket or medallion attached. The black and white Scottie dogs are very reminiscent of the plastic versions that are branding icons attached to the neck of a Black & White Scotch Whiskey bottle.
Royal Navy Mine Clearance Service (UK)
A 1919 cap badge worn by sailors and officers. Immediately after the First World War, the Mine Clearance Service was established to sweep the large numbers of mines laid during conflict. This service was abolished in 1920. Clearly this badge was not linked to the WW2 service or National Service of the three men identified as medal recipients.
Needles in the descendant haystack
To be fair the jewellery items were far from new and did not represent anything from which a profit could be made. Their value no doubt lay in their sentimental significance. Having identified the owners named on the medals, the next step was to find and make contact with a descendant of each family.
One of the Papakura Electoral Rolls had included a record of Joyce and Peter’s daughter, Marie Clair ORCHARD. When I had sought an family tree on Ancestry in which Peter appeared, there was only one. The tree was authored by “Claire Blomfield”. Her name gave me immediate thoughts that if Claire Orchard had married, perhaps she was now Claire Blomfield? I sent Claire a message via Ancestry’s facility requesting help to identify any living descendant of Peter’s that may be still in New Zealand. Back came her reply, “I am Peter Orchard’s daughter.” Claire in fact was Marie Claire BLOMFIELD, nee Orchard, from the Bay of Plenty. It was ironic Claire went by her second as June (Sybil) Grainger had also, except finding Claire had been a whole lot easier. Problem solved, the medals of Peter Orchard now had a destination. I would contact Claire again when I had concluded the research on the remaining medals.
BEHAN and GRAINGER
One of the most helpful coincidences that resulted from constructing the Behan family tree was a link I had not expected and which also explained to some degree why the Grainger and Behan medals had been found together.
The 1970s and 1980s Sydney Electoral Rolls placed Robert Grainger, a Duco (car) Painter, living at 20 Toricelli Avenue, Mt. Druitt, Chifley in Western Sydney with wife June, for an extended number of years and enabled me to link him to a number of family trees on Ancestry. in perusing the trees I noted that Robert “Bobs” Grainger’s wife, Sybil June GRAINGER, coincidentally had the same first name of Hilton Behan’s first wife, Sybil Florence BEHAN,(nee WALL). Not a common name, I wondered if there could be a connection?… a little more analysis of the two families and >>>…. Sybil June WAS Hilton Behan’s daughter, formerly Sybil June Behan, sister of H. Warren Behan and Gwendoline Iris WILLIAM (nee Behan). Since her marriage to Robert, Sybil June must have been known by her second name, and listed, as June Sybil GRAINGER. June and Robert’s address had remained the same for most of their marriage until 1981, the limit of Ancestry records. Two of the entries also include their children’s names – Kevin Talbot Grainger (Photo Engraver) and Carrolle June Grainger (Waitress). With this information I had sufficient to hopefully find at least one living connection by using FaceBook. I took a punt and went for Kevin Grainger since males generally retain and perpetuate their family name for life.
The link between the Graingers and Behans doubled my options to find a living contact to confirm the connection between the two families. There were swags of Behans on numerous Australian family trees which included Hilton Behan Snr (28!). Given that a proportion of the Behan females would have taken another name on marriage which would be unknown to me, I looked to the one male connected to the Behan family by marriage who would be young enough to still be alive, and easiest to research – Kevin Grainger, Robert and June’s son. Nothing in the Sydney phone directory provided a clue, or in Australia for that matter. Next I tried FaceBook which has become an essential tool since cell phones have all but rendered phone books redundant.
Bingo! Kevin Grainger had a FB page on which I found a conversation with his mother June in Nov 2018 but nothing since? Perhaps he had changed his FB account name, closed the account, gone elsewhere overseas, or returned to Australia? Kevin’s last post to his mother said he was working on at a building project for the Newmarket Westfield Mall in Auckland, complete with photos. Another person who had input into the conversation was an Alison Wilson. Alison’s FB page showed she had corresponded with Kevin less than 48 hours before and that her name was actually Alison Munro WILSON (nee Grainger). Fantastic! I sent both Kevin and Alison a message hoping for a quick response. With links now to the Behan and Grainger families, I considered I now had sufficient information to give to Spike who would be able to use the Police network on both sides of the Tasman to make contact with at least one of these two.
Making the connection
It had been a full-on 48 hours since Spike first contacted me with great progress made thus far. It was now Day 3 but no response to my FB posts overnight – perhaps Kevin and Alison had not yet checked their FBs? Any inquiry posted on FB from an unknown (me) can always be very hit or miss. Cold inquiries are likely be treated with suspicion and promptly deleted, ignored, or spammed and blocked. That’s the way it goes sometimes. Mid-morning I called the Whakatane Police Station – Spike answered …“guess what?” he says… Spike explained he had just got off the phone with Kevin Grainger! Spike had initiated a ‘trace’ for Kevin in Auckland with a message to contact “SC Dickey at the Whakatane Police Station” as soon as possible. The message obviously got through! I was stoked that contact had been made which also meant we would hopefully get some meaningful answers to the medal and jewellery origins. Spike had also made contact with Alison via the NSW policing resources. Alison confirmed we had the right family and yes, Kevin was still in Auckland but was not sure where he was. She knew nothing of the medals or jewellery.
The end in sight …
Kevin was able to confirm the relationship between his maternal grandfather, Hilton Warren Behan, his uncle Hilton Warren Behan, and his own father, Bob Grainger. When told about the medals and bag, Kevin was blown away – unbelievably, he was the owner! He couldn’t believe they had turned up, convinced the bag was gone forever. Spike asked Kevin if he new anything about his father’s medals or how they might have got to New Zealand? Yes he did, they had apparently been stolen from him several months before. Kevin was also able to loosely describe his father’s medals noting there had been others in the bag but knew nothing of Peter Orchard (we believe these may have been from another theft/burglary). As for the jewellery items, Kevin could recall the boomerang & kookaburra brooch and the medallion with photographs on either side (no idea who the men in the pictures were). Spike satisfied himself that Kevin Grainger was the owner and that while all of the medals and jewellery items were not identified by him, there was a high probability of ownership by the Behan and/or Grainger families. Fortunately the jewellery items were of no great monetary value, being more likely to have sentimental significance.
I followed up this news with a phone-call to Claire Blomfield, explaining how her father’s medals had being found and to expect a call from SC Dickey – another response of incredulity, this time from Claire. As her dad Peter Orchard had passed away more than 16 years before, Claire had little knowledge of her father’s Army service or his medal other than she though he might have had one. She had not seen any at home for years and was overjoyed they would be returned.
Spike arranged for Peter Orchard’s medals to be returned to Claire in Katikati and the Grainger and Behan medals plus the bag’s contents, to Kevin in Auckland.
Three and a half days of rapid research and timely policing connections has resulted in the return of stolen medals and keepsakes to three families, one New Zealand and two Australian – done and dusted in pretty quick time I am pleased to report, considering that some returns can take months, even years to resolve.
Grateful thanks to Colonel Tom for his foresight in alerting me to the Opotiki News article – I am glad we were able to justify your faith in MRNZ’s ability to reunite the medals with descendant family. Thanks also to Geoff at PAMs in Trentham whose prompt assistance re Peter Orchard’s UK military service, helped us to reach a favourable outcome quickly.
NZ Police’s Senior Constable Paul “Spike” Dickey of the Whakatane Police was particularly helpful in making the people connections from the info we provided – an enjoyable collaboration that resolved a challenging set of circumstances that has resulted in a very successful outcome for three rather astonished family descendants – my personal thanks Spike!
The reunited medal tally is now 325.