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Expert Q&A :: Battlefield Memorial Travel answers your military history questions

Q. From Denise: I have Frederick G Pike who died in Mesamatopia I can find the details of his death from an illness and his embarkation details but can’t seem to find his service records.
20:49 A. Matt: Denise, do you have a service number?
A. Denise: 17182 he was a Sapper with the Australian signal squadron
20:57 A. Matt: Hi Denise – try this link
A. Tim: Denise, his service records are here:
A. Denise: Wow ty don’t know how I missed that thank you

Q. From Chris: Good evening – I am wondering how my grandfather would have ended up in the 39th Battalion that was formed on 21 February 1916 in Ballarat when he signed his attestation papers on the 3rd March 1916 in Bunyip and actually lived at Goulburn Weir (North Central Victoria)?
A. Tim: Chris can you supply his name for me and I’ll take a look?
A. Chris: Henry William Henderson – Service No. 128
A. Tim: Henry signed on just after the formation of the 39th Battalion so they were appointing new recruits from wherever they could be found to fill the new battalion’s ranks.
A. Tim: Also at this point, all the Battalions overseas had been re-organised and doubled after Gallipoli and were basically back to strength so reinforcements weren’t as necessary and new recruits could be used to fill the new battalions forming at home..
A. Chris: Thanks Tim – I thought that was possibly the case. I also thought the geography was interesting and I assumed he signed in Bunyip and not his hometown because of the fact he altered his age from 16 to 18.
A. Tim: That’s also quite possible Chris. No doubt known in his home town so went farther afield to enlist. He certainly wasn’t the only one to do that.
A. Chris: Thanks for your time tonight Tim – appreciate the response.

Q. From Leigh: Hi Tim and Matt, I am trying to find details of my fathers service with the British navy fleet air arm during WW2 he was a fighter pilot but when I try the uh national archives I don’t have much luck any suggestions… Thanks.
A. Matt: Hi Leigh, your best bet would be the National Archives in the UK if he was British – Try this link –
A. Leigh: Thanks Matt I have tried uk nat archives ” looking for a person ” but did not add the fleet air arm bit so I’ll try that & see if I have any luck
A. Matt: No worries – unfortunately the UK archives are not as digitised as ours. However, you can still order copies of documents.

Q. From Wendy: G’day Matt and Tim, thanks for your time.  Tim, congrats on the book you and Sandra Playle have written about Fromelles, can you tell us a little about it?
A. Tim: Hi Wendy, The last thing we wanted to do was another military history full of strategy and tactics so this book focuses on the lives of the soldiers themselves, their experiences and the stories of their families and descendants who suffered through the soldiers loss and now rejoice in their recovery. It also tells the story of the amateur and professional networks joining to find the men.
A. IHM: Here’s the link to Tim and Sandra’s book – Fromelles: The Final Chapters ::
Q (b): Wendy: Thanks Tim, when can we buy a copy?
A. Tim: It will be in bookstores on 26th June.
A. Gloria: R.I.P. Private Eric Hancock. Died Fromelles July 1916.

Q. From Ashleigh: Hi, I’ve been doing some research on my great great uncle Trooper Thomas O’Leary 1018a 11th light horse. He was a scout for his squadron in the charge of Beersheba. I already have his records and the page written about him on the AWM website. I was wondering where else i could find some info about him?
A. IHM: I have a feeling you’ll be interested in this article re Beersheba from Neil Smith Ashleigh ::
A. Ashleigh: Sorry Thomas was in the 4th light horse.
A. Matt: Ashleigh, do you have the records for his recommendation and award of the Military Medal?
A. Tim: You could try the 4th Light Horse Regimental Diaries
A. IHM: Here’s the link to the WW1 War Diary for the 4th Light Horse ::
A. Ashleigh: Yes I have seen the telegram sent to his parents for his MM and his recommendation.
A. Matt: Don’t forget there is citation evidence in the AWM for his award. Happy to link –
A. Ashleigh: Thanks I have come across the info the AWM has. They have written about his service in WW1.
A. Wendy: A few of our locals were with the 4thLHR , thanks for the link 🙂
A. IHM: As always, you’re welcome Wendy
A. Ashleigh: Thank you so much for all your help. And Inside History Magazine thank you for the link to the Beersheba article.
A. IHM: You’re very welcome Ashleigh, let us know if you have a question for the author Neil Smith ::

Q. From Marg: Hi am a researcher at Fort Scratchley Newcastle NSW. and at the moment we are putting our 2nd World War display together. My question. The man we are featuring is Col Percy Walter Dobson. I was wondering how much info is out there on this guy please. We know he gained the Military Cross.
A. Matt: We have some information on a Percy Walter Dobson from WWI, but we would need a point of reference for WW2.
A. Marg: Ok I can contact my curator on that.
A. Tim: Marg, Percy’s MC citation is here:

Q. From Gloria: Hello. My father served in Korea and Papua New Guinea. Located service records, but can I found out where he was stationed, and what he did?
A. Matt: Gloria, can you forward some details of your father to assist? We can get back to you after the session.
A. Gloria: Stanley James Sims NX48215
A. Tim: Gloria, your Father’s WW2 service record is online at the NAA but not yet digitised so if you don’t have a copy you can apply for it to be done. It usually takes only about 30 days and doesn’t cost very much. It should tell you all about his service. (You’ll see the ‘request copy’ button top right of the NAA screen)
A. Tim: Also, it appears he first served in the RAAF between 1940-41 as an Aircraftman during WW2. He has a second Service File under 21143 Stanley James SIMS. This file is also not yet digitised but will no doubt help tell the story of his service.
A. Gloria: Thankyou Tim. Looking forward to reading Fromelles, as Uncle Eric is still there.
A. Tim: Just go to the NAA website and search under his full name. Both files should appear

Q. From IHM: That was a busy hour! Big thanks to Matt Smith and Tim Lycett, can you tell us what you have in the pipeline that we should be excited about?
A. Matt: Sure thing! Tim and I are preparing a short tour to Fromelles in July to commemorate the five more Australians who were identified in Pheasant Wood Cemetery. If anyone is interested in joining, they would be most welcome. Details to follow.
A. Tim: Of course I have a book coming out in June on our Fromelles research. Had some real success there and it includes photos of 97 of the 124 men who have been identified. The official Dept of Defence Fromelles search continues for only one more year so it’s noses to the grindstone to identify as many as possible before the time expires.

Comment: IHM: Thanks again to Matt Smith and Tim Lycett for joining us tonight! We’ll publish the questions, answers and links from tonight’s session in a blog post this coming week. Have a great night!

13985_646052418754334_1101354507_nFeatured image courtesy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

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