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Expert Q&A :: AWM Military Heraldry and Technology Team

Comment: Sue: I don’t have any questions to ask but I thoroughly enjoyed teaching students about using war records during history lessons. Great way to plot where a person had been and try to find images of boats etc. Also enjoyed trying to find my grandfathers medals, many being Polish and then helping in British forces.
A. IHM: Tip :: Keep refreshing your browser to see the answers as they appear and remember to look through the entire list of comments, as Facebook may order your questions and answers out of sequence.
A. AWM: @Sue – And I’m sure that your students appreciate your passion. It can really bring history to life when you begin to look at one individual’s experience and there is a certain ‘buzz’ when you find that photo, document or object that relates to a family member, isn’t there? – Kerry
A. Sue: Especially if the students have done enough family history that they can actually find one of their relatives and do the research on them.

Q. From Bec: Sorry for the bombardment but where can I get a copy of the mourning medal that the mothers received for losing a son in service …. Apologies.
A. AWM: @Bec – I’m not sure if you are referring to a First World War Mothers and Widows badge, for example:;  a Next of Kin Plaque, for example:; or a Second World War Female Relatives badge, for example: These badges and plaque are no longer issued. You may like to consult the yellow pages for a company that produce replicas, but I am not aware of any. Best of luck. -Eleni

Q. From Patrice: Hi all my dad was in Darwin during WWII bombing raids but never went overseas. Would he have been classed as Active Service and his records do not show any medals. Why would this be. He never went further than Darwin and was discharged at end of 1944 for family reasons.
A. AWM: @Patrice – Hello Patrice, can you please tell me what branch of the service, your father served? Also, if you have perused his service record, what dates was he present in Darwin? – Gary
A. Patrice: Thanks AWM for responding. He was in the Army and in Darwin from 1942 to end of 1944.
A. Patrice: Sorry forgot to add he was with 14th Field Ambulance.
A. AWM: Hello Patrice. Darwin was first bombed on the 19th February, 1942 and last attacked by Japanese aircraft on the 12th November, 1943. A total of 64 raids. The Department of Defence Honours and Awards stipulates that The Defence Medal was instituted to provide recognition for specified periods of service in non-operational areas subjected to air attack or closely threatened. Please see this attached link: Any inquiry in relation to medal entitlements should be made in writing by the closest next of kin to the Directorate of Honours and Awards. Please refer to this link: This organisation will make an informed determination of medal eligibility based on all evidence, which may include copies of your father’s paybooks if you have them? Any documents of this nature should be copied and certified to support your application. Whether or not your father’s service actually constitutes ‘Active Service’ during his time in the Northern Territory will be determined by the Directorate of Honours and Awards. Should you attend the Australian War Memorial at any time, we have Visitor services in attendance which will be able to assist you interpret individual soldier records. Bookings are not necessary, however it would be advisable to attend during business hours to ensure that all resources and services are available. – Gary
Q (b): Patrice:  Another question. Where do I search for the Battalion or Unit war diaries of both 1st & 2nd WW to see what my relations went through? Thanks to all for the opportunity to ask questions. I love this type of media.
Q (c): Patrice: If I go to the AWM for a visit is there anyone with whom I can discuss individual soldier records or just Unit records?
A. AWM: @Patrice – Hello Patrice, the First World War and Second World War Unit Diaries have been digitised and are available through the AWM website. For example, here is a link to the Infantry War Diaries for the Second World War.
A. AWM: If you hover over “People” drop down menu on the AWM website, on the right hand side is a box titled “About Units” . Click on “Unit War Diaries” and then select from the lists provided. – Gary
A. Patrice: I want to thank Gary & team at AWM for all their help , and also Inside History. It has been a great help and motivator.

Q. From Tanya: Hello, I have a great great uncle, Milton Simmons, who was killed at Pozieres in July 1916. He was listed as missing and was then confirmed killed about 12 months later and his remains were buried in the SERRE ROAD CEMETERY No.2. I would like to find out more about how they identified him though, and if they confirmed what he died from, if possible. These details are not in his service file. Do you know if they would they be anywhere else please?
A. AWM: @ Tanya – the Memorial hold the Red Cross Wounded & Missing file for a Milton Simmons and I think it is your relative. His Mother asked the Red Cross to find out what happened to him as the Army tended to give families little detail. It is digitised and the link is at
A. Tanya: @Australian War Memorial Thank you. I have a copy of that doc, was hoping there might be something else…somewhere…(Interestingly, it think a letter contained in the doc, on the last page, has been mistake being associated with Milton because none of the details, address, people’s names match with his family.
A. AWM: Hi Tanya, I will need to look into this further but I am not aware of any other documents. – Dianne
A. Tanya:  Many thanks Dianne. 🙂
A. AWM: Hi Tanya, yes the last page does relate to another Simmons, who died the same month as Milton. I have looked at his digitised service record and it indicates in it how they identified him on page 18. When his body was discovered and exhumed in about 1927 (date obtained through the letter on page 19) and he was reburied at Serre Road Cemetery No. 2, they noted the map location his body was found (Sheet 57d grid R.43.a.4.1) – given the account in his Wounded & Missing file I think it unlikely he was properly buried in 1916 and perhaps he was buried by a shell explosion. On page 18 it notes the body was found with an identity disc that was partially legible – the pertinent details being “…952 M……. 26 Batt”. They would have compared this with the 26th Bn’s list of dead and so identified him through the partial service number as 1952 Milton Simmons 26th Battalion AIF. That is how they found and identified his body. Given they did not locate his body until 11 years after his death they may not have been able to establish how he died and they may not have had the time or facilities to do so, given the many tens of thousands of bodies they reburied through the 1920s. – Dianne
A. Tanya: Thank you Dianne! I had completely overlooked this page of his service record. I had focused more on the letters from his family. I have learnt to examine all parts of a record.

Q. From Barry: Yesterday I sent a photo of my father Matthew Cain and asked for identification of the uniform he was wearing. I received a reply today advising an answer would be given here tonight,please advise where I can find this answer.
A. IHM: Hi Barry, we’ll be posting up your answer soon
A. IHM: Q from Barry: I am wondering if you could help identify the uniform worn by my father in the attached photo. My father was Matthew Cianciarulo(later in 1946 changed his name to Matthew Cain by Deedpol) and also attached is his enlistment form. Link to the photo:
A. AWM: @ Barry – The uniform your father is wearing is his patrol blues (his full dress). He would have worn it before his enlistment in the Second AIF in 1942, perhaps even before he was transferred to the 5th Anti Tank Regiment in 1941. He would not have worn it after he joined the Second AIF. Unfortunately the photograph is too blurry to tell what the badges are on his collars and cap. The colour of the piping on his sleeve and cap band colour would have confirmed what unit he was in when it was taken but being black and white, unfortunately it means we can’t tell. – Dianne
A. Barry: Thank you for your prompt reply.

Q. From Bec: Just wondering if any of the men that served lets say were based in England before heading out had children to woman who they met while over there.. Would there be any file of them anywhere…
Q(b): Bec: Thanks Eleni, will try my best lol. Also would you guys like a portrait of my great uncle Sydney for your records? I notice you have him in his plane with others.
A. AWM: @Bec – Relationships in times of war can be complex and undoubtedly children were born from relationships between Australian men and women in the countries in which they served. It is unlikely that there would be a file on these births, so the usual path taken with researching genealogy, births, marriages etc. would probably be the best course of action. If you have a specific person you are interested in researching, a search of the National Archives using their NameSearch could be start. Here is the link: – Kerry
A. AWM: @Bec. Thank you for the donation offer! However photographs are not our collection area, so all I can do is suggest that you email the Memorial and fill in a donation offer form and one of our photograph curators will be in touch.
A. Karen: Make sure you keep a copy for yourself 😉

Comment: AWM: A few people asked about the dog with the 2/48th Battalion after evacuating Tobruk. He (or she!) was photographed with SX7613 Private Jack Eunson Champion of Echunga, SA but unfortunately, we do not have any other information about the dog. Due to quarantine laws animals could not be brought back home (although some were smuggled back). There was a unit history written about the 2/48th – ‘ Tobruk to Tarakan : the story of the 2/48th Battalion, A.I.F.’ by John G. Glenn and there might be something in there about it if people want to research more. It definitely isn’t Horrie the Wog Dog – Dianne

Q. From Chris:  I am wondering if there was ever a legal/legislative document that specifically stated that soldiers who died during WW1 would remain where they fell? And if so, would this have been communicated to the soldier upon attestation to be further told to the family? I realize that Australians were fighting for Britain and therefore followed their regimen of not repatriating bodies, and I also note the logistics of doing so at that time to Australia, but somehow I believe that such knowledge had to be more than ‘everybody knew’, more than an urban legend. Any suggestions or thoughts?
A. IHM: Hi Chris, the AWM team have kindly agreed to do some research on your question. They’ll have an answer for you early next week.
A. Karen: I’d think that most Australians of the time couldn’t afford to bring a body home, even if it was possible
A. Chris: Thanks all.
A. Doing our bit, Mosman 1914-1918: Your question, Chris, reminded me of this thread on the Great War Forum – Fabian Ware headed the Graves Registration Commission that was to become the CWGC
A. Chris: Thanks for the link … have just had a quick look but I am more interested in the case for example of Mrs John Smith, newly wed, aged circa 20 – what was it that she indeed thought would happen if her husband fell at the front?? That sort of knowledge.
A. AWM: @Chris, I don’t know what the early enlisters or their families would have thought. Certainly there was a lot of anguish about the status of the graves early on, with the lack or recording grave sites and lack of care – I don’t think anyone could have anticipated what would have happened with the number of dead and how huge the war became. In previous wars I think they tended to be buried where they died, unless they were very well known or well off and then they may have been brought home (to the UK at least, not sure about Australia). There was no British army policy of maintaining war graves before the First World War.
According to the book ‘Courage Remembered: The story behind the construction and maintenance of the Commonwealth’s Military Cemeteries and Memorial of the war of 1914-1918 and 1939-1945’ by Major Edwin Gibson and G Kinglsey Ward (about the Commonwealth War Graves Commission ), an order in April 1915 forbade the exhumations for repatriation based on two themes – equality of treatment (which was in keeping with public feeling at the time – it would not be fair if the wealthy and well-connected could bring their relatives home but others could not) and the question of hygiene. These remained important principles for the Imperial War Graves Commission (later renamed the Commonwealth War Graves Commission) in the establishment of the First World War cemeteries.
This was actually a British position which Australia conformed to. For Australia the logisitics to bring home the 60,000 dead would have been nightmarish – bodies would have taken weeks to get home by ship, even finding enough shipping to get the bodies home would have been such a challenge – it made a lot of sense to bury the men where they died, with those they fought with. It would have been so hard for the families left behind though – and even more so for those whose relatives bodies could not be buried or could not be identified. Some people created special memorials or headstones in their local cemeteries to commemorate them and so they had somewhere to mourn them. – Dianne

Q. From Denise: My father was in the 2/15 th and went overseas on the Queen Mary. Are there any pictures of the troops on the ship on the way over to Tobruk please?
A. AWM: @ Denise, I have had a look on our website and could only find two photographs regarding the 2/15th Bn and the Queen Mary they are prepareing to board. I could not find any actually on board in our collection. They are and – Dianne
A. Denise: Thanks for your trouble
A. Denise: Those pics say 2/15 7th I always thought he was 2/15th 9th div will have to,check
A. AWM: @ Denise, the 2/15th Bn was part of the 20th Brigade. The Brigade was transferred from the 7th Division to the 9th Division after these photos were taken, hence the different divisions. A brief history of the unit is on the Memorial’s website: – Dianne
Q(b): Denise: Another please, a relative Frederick G Pike died in Mesopotamia from an illness. His family have a monument in Gunedah cemetery but his body would not have been brought home, would it?
A. AWM: @Denise. Thank you for your question. Re your original question earlier today, unfortunately we don’t have a photograph of 17182 Sapper Frederick Pike in the photographs collection. The Memorial collection does not contain photos of every person who served or died in the First World War. However you can always spend some time searching through the collection database for unit photographs, and with great luck, you might be able to make an identification against a photo that you already have. Pike served with No. 1 Australian Wireless Signal Squadron. There are a few unit photos of the Wireless Squadron in Mesopotamia, such as this one, which you could locate using key words. Regarding his burial, no his body did not come back to Australia. Only General Bridges & the Unknown Australian Soldier had that honour. Many families created memorials or headstones in their local cemeteries to honour their lost relatives whose graves they could not visit. -Eleni & Dianne
A. Denise: Thanks very much for your time will look at those records now was just going through my father’s record and looking at pics from previous links, now I’ll go look at this one thanks

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