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Sepia Saturday 249: 11 October 2014

Picture showing a stage coach with suitcases and bundles on top empty of passengers.  Two men stand beside it waiting with four horses - two bay, two white.

The picture comes from the TAHO (Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office) via Flickr Commons, and is simpled titled ‘Old Coaches 1900’.

Little Nell aka Marilyn from Sepia Saturday says:

There are any number of themes that can be taken from this picture: coach rides, old transport, roof-racks, luggage, waiting, animated discussion, clowning, cab drivers, or whatever else pops into your head. Of course you don’t have to theme and can simply post an old picture or two with a link back to Sepia Saturday, on or around 11 October.
Actually it's well worth going to see the original of this image because it explains the headless horses and the bottomless horses.  And you get to see the driver of the coach more clearly - and the other driver of what I think is a sulky on the right, who is a woman.   So in fact, I think, the two men standing down are probably passengers and there is perhaps a one lane bridge and people are waiting their turn to cross or some such.  Or a chance meeting of neighbours or perhaps the lady has come to collect one of the gentlemen or is dropping him off to the coach.  Who knows.  

Now this week I am going to interpret this very widely to suit my own purposes.  Sorry.  Them's the breaks.  Links to the theme will be bolded in case you don't get the connections.

Last Friday my sister-in-law Julie (sister-in-law number 2 by birth) dropped off a suitcase to me.  She is a busy woman like me and this was no doubt one of many jobs on her list that day.  She was very surprised to find me at home.  "What are you doing here?" she said.  I reminded her of the procedure on my nose I had to have the day before - the penalty of being a white sheila in Australia - the wide brown land - and of a mis-spent youth, lathering myself in coconut oil, lying on a tin roof and reading Dolly magazine with friend Judith in Canberra and not wearing a hat.  A Basal Cell Carcinoma had to be cut out and I was waiting for son Caspar to drive me to work as I had an anaesthetic and was forbidden to drive for 24 hours.  I am now sporting a very attractive (not) scar on my nose, which all my friends and colleagues assure me will fade in time.  But enough of me.  Back to the suitcase.  

"Pat (sister-in-law number 1 by birth) gave this to me to give to you" said Julie.  "It's all those certificates and family history stuff you gave to Alice and Fay - it needs to be digitized."  "Oh right" I said and left it sitting there - as you do - thinking to self "I'll get to that eventually."

So I opened it on Monday - a Public Holiday in most of Australia for Labour Day.  What was in the bag?

Yes, I could see copies of certificates I had sent to Alice and Fay but there were enticing parcels too.  Parcels like this.

And this.

And this

And so, dear reader, you are about to be assaulted with more photos.  Photos that I don't know very much about but which will take me into new and interesting places, I'm sure.  Let's start with this one.

This is the obverse of the postcard.

So who is this?  I think that is Aunt Alice's writing on the bottom left of the photo.  The writing says "Guinea".  Let me put this in some context for you.  Alice is my husband's aunt - his father's sister.  She was born a Daw originally but is descended from the Hindes and Duncans who were connected by marriage to the Guineas.  The other writing on the card is a bit more difficult to read and I welcome any feedback you may have on what you think it says.  The first word is what is stumping me (I thought it said Deu - others at work think Ken) but the rest I think says sails on 4 of June 1918.  So this is someone who was a bit late to the party, as it were.  Someone who was perhaps too young to enlist early in the war.  

I was drawn to this photo particularly because I am embedded in research for WW1 at the moment with a project at work.  I knew I had to search National Archives records to see if I could find a service record.  I found 8 results for the surname Guinea in WW1.  Of those, I decided this was John Gerard Guinea because of a number of factors - namely age and location.

The Duncans were based on the Gold Coast so I was looking for someone in or near Queensland.  I discounted John Guinea of Dalby because he was 44 years old and this photo is of someone much younger.  John Gerard Guinea's file was actually empty but the item title told me it had been amalgamated with a WW2 file.  When I searched under Guinea for WW2 records I got far more results (5904 to be precise) than the WW1 search.  This is of course because a lot of the action in WW2 was happening in PNG.

Thankfully there is a Refine this search result button.  This is where you get the opportunity to put in a Service Number - NXF41955. And this is what I found.

So now I'm thinking that first word is Den - short for Denis.  What do you think?  There are 54 pages in this record.  Quite a big one.  The WW1 stuff starts properly on Page 9.  

Now of course there are a whole lot of questions to be answered.  Why did he change his middle name from Gerard to Denis?  I don't know if we'll ever find out all the answers. John was living in Northern NSW when he enlisted in WW1 and I decided he was "our" Guinea because his mother was recorded on his Attestation Papers as living in Gilston, which is definitely Hinde/Duncan country. 

At this point in proceedings I am usually searching several sites at once - being a frog, I do jump around, trying to get all the pieces to join up.  I had Qld BDM open, NSW BDM open, Trove, NAA, Ancestry, Find My Past etc.  My husband gets quite cross when he sees my desktop.  I searched Trove for John G Guinea and look what came up!  Another version of the postcard!  Who'd a thunk?

And more sobering this photo - which is also in his file.  

So this is the story I have been able to cobble together about John G Guinea.

At first I looked for his birth in Queensland which I found very confusing. On his medical papers, it says he was born in Warwick.  There is a John Guinea listed as being born in 1894 born to a Dennis and Mary Jane Duncan.  But why would he lie about his age (24 in 1918) and make himself younger than he needed to?  

In John G Guinea's service record, he said his mother was Mary Ada Isabel rather than Mary Jane.  Boys can be pretty hopeless when it comes to remembering details of family members in my experience but surely they remember their mother's names???  So I searched NSW BDM and found a record in 1900 for a John P (Gs and Ps can often look the same in copperplate I find to the untrained eye) to a John M and a Mary A I.  Bingo!  This makes more sense.  It makes much more sense because yes, he was fudging his birthday, saying he was 21 years old when he was probably only just 18 or maybe even 17 when he enlisted given that he said his birthday was the 29th September.

If you search NSW BDM Index for Guineas born to John and Mary from 1880 - 1914 this is what you get.  

John Guinea Snr. and Mary Ada Isabel (nee De Chave) had five children  - Mary born 1898, then John G, then Ellen, then Olive and then Mary in 1908.

So John G Guinea was the only son.  In his service record there is mention on Page 47 of his mother writing a letter on 6 November requesting that her son be kept out of the firing line.  I wonder how many mothers wrote those sort of letters.  

John embarked from Sydney on the RMS "Orontes" as part of the 1 to 8 (QLD) Reinforcements on 5 June 1918 according to the AWM.  He was part of the 4th Reinforcement and joined the 25th Battalion.  In September/October he was ill with the mumps, followed swiftly by influenza.  Then he joined the 9th Battalion.  He was discharged 12 June 1919 but then seems to have joined the Russian Relief Forces.  I'd like to know more about that and welcome any advice you may have about research in this area.  I found this particular article useful and found this record on the National Archives website which I think I will order just for fun.

His service record indicates that he had an address care of the GPO Bundaberg in 1922.  The Qld BDM index shows that his mother died in 1927.  According to the electoral rolls he and his father were working as labourers at Gilston in 1925.  They then seemed to move to Iluka in 1936.  

John married Mary E BUSBRIDGE in 1939.  They had two children Robin Denis and Francis John but according to the NSW BDM Index they died respectively in 1940 and 1941.  Here is a notice for Francis John (4th paragraph on the left)

John enlisted for home defence service with the 11th Battalion at Paddington, NSW on 14 June 1940.  On 7 April 1942 he was reported missing in Malaya. 29 March the following year he is listed as a Prisoner of War in Borneo.  On 9 April 1945 he was listed as deceased whilst POW - cause not stated - Place of Casualty - Sandakan.  

I found this online memorial to him.  It says he died at Sandakan Number 1 camp on 9 April 1945 and that the Japanese records said he died of Malaria. He was POW Number 758.  

You can read more about Sandakan here and here.  It's grim reading.  There was no coach or horses to carry parcels for John or the other POWs. Instead...

Approximately 455 POWs left Sandakan on the first march to
Ranau. They were issued with enough rations—rice, some
dried fish and salt—for just four days, and the men found that
they were also to be burdened with extra sacks of rice,
ammunition and other pieces of Japanese equipment.
Additional supplies supposedly were to be made available at
various Japanese food dumps along the way but the marchers
were often reduced to scrounging whatever the jungle could
provide or by trading their few possessions with the local
people. Most were forced to march in bare feet and the track
west soon became a barely passable pathway of mud, tree
roots and stones. Virtually every night it rained. Over sections
of low-lying swamp a bamboo walkway had been erected.
With the mud and rain, this proved impossible to walk on, so
the POWs were forced to wade through the swamp itself. 
   From  Laden, Fevered and Starved The POWS of Sandakan North Borneo 1945 by Dr Richard Reid (p.27) published 1999

Lest we forget.


Sharon said…
Don't you love it when everything comes together! Well Done!

I can imagine your excitement at seeing those parcels!

You also made me laugh and I had to read part of your blog to my husband as he always comments on how many things that I have open at the one time! I am not alone!
Dara said…
Alex, how wonderful to receive 'packets' of old family photos. What fun you will have! John seemed to have had a particularly harrowing end, poor chap, RIP.
Wendy said…
Boldface links to the Sepia prompt notwithstanding, this is an exceptional story. I enjoyed going along with you solving this mystery as if it were my own.
Bob Scotney said…
What an amazing detective job you have done. I'm sure those parcels will give us much more due to your hard work.
21 Wits said…
Oh my gosh, what a source of information indeed. You just never know when you are going to be gifted with such treasures!
ScotSue said…
Such an inventive post based on this week's prompt - and you built up the anticipation so well on what was in the case.
La Nightingail said…
At first glance I thought it said "Ken" too. But after reading you thought it might be "Den" for Denis, I took a second look, and now I don't know what I think? It could be "Ken" or it could be "Den". Aren't I a great help, though! :) In any case, that's a major bunch of sleuthing on your part!
Wonderfully written. What a story!!! Boy, did I enjoy this one.
Alex Daw said…
Sharon - I could not believe my luck. The newspapers wrapped in plastic were the best bit because tucked inside them were even more photos!
Alex Daw said…
Dara - Aren't I lucky? Unlike poor John/Den who seems to have had a particularly raw deal in life.
Alex Daw said…
Thank you for coming on the ride with me Wendy! It's always lovely to have traveling companions :)
Alex Daw said…
Thank you Bob. Yes, I'm looking forward to doing more research with these for sure.
Alex Daw said…
No indeed. There I was only last week bemoaning my lack thereof and the universe supplied!
Alex Daw said…
Thank you Sue. The past couple of weeks have tested my inventiveness I must say!
Alex Daw said…
Ha Ha! I like your style! Just like me. Much sucking of teeth and furrowing of brow this end.
Alex Daw said…
Thank you Helen. I'm so pleased you enjoyed it. I was a bit concerned that it wasn't flowing well at all and was just a list of dates. I had to go back and look at the records several times to make sure I understood everything. Dates are particularly tricky - at one stage I thought he died in September until I realised that I was looking at the date the army had been notified rather than the date it actually happened.
Anonymous said…
Well I'm no help as I read the signature as J.Dew, But you certainly know a lot about John now and made me green with envy. Why can't I have a packet like that ?
An excellent piece of research. I felt for you with the multiple web sites open at once. I get quite lost at times doiing that.
Mike Brubaker said…
A fine post. Deciphering short messages in a fast cursive handwriting is very challenging, and I like the way you showed all your work. Sort of like how 5th grade math teachers would want to see all the steps in solving a algebra problem. And thank you for your kind words. I know how much my Sepia friends value family and friends.
Alex Daw said…
Handwriting can be a challenge can't it? I'm glad of the help I receive thru Sepia Saturday.
Alex Daw said…
Thank you Mike. And how much we value our Sepia Saturday comrades in blogging too.
Little Nell said…
A fascinating read and thoroughly absorbing. How exciting to receive a suitcase like that too.
diane b said…
That sure was an exciting parcel for you. The story of John was sad.
Alex Daw said…
Thank you Little Nell. Yes, it certainly is a treasure trove.
Alex Daw said…
Dear Diane. I agree. John's life had many challenges - particularly at the end.

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