my grandfather, John Charles Merriman Traill, but also a photo of him. Suddenly this mythical person was real! After contacting the author, Ron Austin, I obtained the phone number of grandfather’s son Charles and found out that he lived in Forster, NSW – not Victoria! The dilemma of whether to write or phone was short lived – I decided, on the 25th May, 2004, to phone with the thought that he could only hang up if he didn’t want to speak to me! It was not until Charles was in his fifties that he discovered his father had had a previous marriage and that was only when a photo of two young girls was found while sorting
through his mother’s papers! Asking his mother who they were he was told ‘Oh, didn’t I tell you your father had a previous marriage and those are his daughter’s from that marriage’! Charles had been looking, since then, for his two half sisters for nearly twenty years and had given up hope of ever finding them. In the mid 80’s, on a visit to Edinburgh, Scotland, he had even written to the local paper in the hope of finding someone who may have known his sisters. My phone call was, he said, the best birthday present he had received – it was his birthday the following day! He did phone the following day to check it wasn’t all a dream! In July 2004 my husband, John, and I drove up to Forster, NSW, to meet Charles and his wife Joan. It was, as you can imagine, a very emotional meeting. I had not only found a wonderful uncle but discovered what an amazing man my grandfather was, one I am very proud of especially as he was one of the original ANZACs being in the first wave of boats to land at Gallipoli and in the last boat to leave the shores of Gallipoli. Charles had a lot of memorabilia belonging to grandfather including a mug he had pulled out of the mud while fighting at Somme on the Western Front – holding that mug, still with the dirt on it was one of the most amazing experiences. Many pieces of the jigsaw were filled in with all the
information Charles had obtained over his years of searching. He even had the divorce papers of grandfathers first marriage which is when I found out that grandfather had met his first wife while in hospital in England recovering for being injured whilst fighting in France. They came back to Australia after the war with both my mother and aunt being born in Melbourne. His first wife did not like life in country Victoria and returned to England with both her daughters never to return. In December 2004 Charles and his wife met my sister who was over from England. Writing to my cousin, in England, to tell him that his mother had a half brother was a little hard as Elenora, Charles’ half sister, was in her mid eighties at the time. Discovering that she had a half brother came as quite a shock but once over that she was keen to find out more about her half brother. Charles and Elenora have spoken on several occasions and both Charles and Joan flew over to England to meet Elenora and his new extended family, to help celebrate her 90th birthday. It was, as you can imagine a very emotional reunion but a wonderful one for all concerned. Unfortunately my mother died a few years ago so Charles never got to meet her. I asked Charles to get miniatures of grandfathers’ medals which I now wear on ANZAC Day with pride. What a pity things like divorce were never discussed in those early days but how lucky I was that, a chance meeting and conversation with a tour guide at the War Memorial brought about such a wonderful getting together of families – it really was a Chance in a Million!
TRIBUTE TO SECOND WORLD WAR HEROINE NANCY WAKE The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Warren Snowdon, honoured the extraordinary life and experiences of Second World War heroine Ms Nancy Wake AC GM at a special memorial tribute in Canberra in March. The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, joined the Ambassador of France, His Excellency Mr S. Romatet, and Mr Peter FitzSimons AM, author of Nancy Wake’s biography, in paying tribute to one of the most famed women in wartime history. The Governor General, Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce, was joined by representatives of the Australian Military, along with New Zealand and British officials at the official tribute at Parliament House.
Mr Snowdon said Nancy Wake was a woman of exceptional courage and resourcefulness whose daring exploits saved the lives of hundreds of Allied personnel and helped bring the Nazi occupation of France to an end. Mr FitzSimons said Nancy smuggled messages and provided food for the troops as they escaped. She also parachuted into occupied France with Major John Farmer, to organise the Resistance in preparation for the D-Day invasion. “Code-named ‘White Mouse’ by the Gestapo, Nancy was one of the most highly decorated women in the Second World War receiving the George Medal and many other military awards,” he said. “We will never forget Nancy and the exceptional courage and determination she displayed during the War. I have no doubt that her story will remain a legend for generations to come,” Mr Snowdon said.
Born in New Zealand, Nancy moved to Australia at an early age and was educated in Sydney. She married a French businessman in 1932 and in 1940 she joined the French resistance movement. After the War, she spent time in both Australia and England, running for office in the Australian Parliament on several occasions. She passed away at her London home in late 2011 aged 98. The Australian War Memorial in Canberra are the proud custodians of Nancy’s many decorations. In addition to the George Medal, Nancy received the 1939-45 Star, France and Germany Star, Defence Medal, War Medal 1939-45, French Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, French Croix de Guerre with Star and two Palms, US Medal for Freedom with Palm and French Medaille de la Resistance for her courageous endeavors. In 2004, she was made a Companion of the Order of Australia.
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The Last Post magazine - Autumn 2012 - Anzac Day Special