War service takes many forms…..

I follow, with interest, the blog of ‘GP COX’ called ‘Pacific Paratrooper’  – it had captured my attention some time ago as it was a blog that reflected, as the title suggests, the Pacific theatre operations in WW2.  It’s an area of war history that is sometimes overlooked but it’s one that has had a profound effect on Australia and its people.

This theatre of war came right to our doorstep – Broome, Darwin and Sydney were all in receipt of Japanese ‘interest’ during the War.  Things might well have turned out  differently for Australia, had the Japanese actions not been repelled.

I was also interested to read about this action as several relatives including my former father-in-law served in this theatre of operations.  Some did not make it home.

Major Clarence Barton Dawkins, graduate of Royal Military College Duntroon, died in Singapore. His older brother, Lieutenant William Henry Dawkins, was also a graduate of the College and had been killed in WW1 at Gallipoli.

G.P. Cox’s most recent post summarises well the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces – Japan – a part of the Australian war service and history that is often overlooked. It reminded me that my mother talked often as to how my uncle had badgered his mother to let him sign up. Eventually he managed a permission form somehow (I suspect not legally) and off he went. It was as a member of the BCOF- Japan he was posted.

This image, dated 1946, is a tiny photo of Frank taken reflected in the window of a shop – the original is smaller than the reproduction on this page (it measures barely 4cm long).  To me, this is the equivalent of a modern ‘selfie’. 

Frank sent his mother another image that has survived – with an annotation on the back giving his regiment, HQ Sigs, based in Kure.

The photo was obviously double exposed but I’m guessing any mother would be pleased to see her son in reasonable shape when he was so far away.

Reverse: A search for Frank’s enlistment and service record details on the NAA website reveals nothing and I have always wondered whether he enlisted under a false name – which is quite likely knowing what a rapscallion he was! Other Australian military researchers who had specialised in this area told me he, in his real name, isn’t on any lists as having been part of the BCOF they have; so it’s looking more and more likely he used some deception to get there.

Born in 1927, Frank would have been just 18 or 19 when he first went to Japan. He told me when I was young, he spent two years there – he learned a little of the language and used it on odd occasions when, as a teenager, I stayed with he and his wife. He must have admitted to his deception at some point, as later in life he was admitted to the R.S.L. as a former serving member, and he received government veteran health care support when he became ill.

Photography and film technology always intrigued him and, in the 60’s particularly,  it was not uncommon to find him staggering in at all hours, having been out filming and processing newsreel footage for television stations. His years with the Education Department saw him work in the Audio Visual unit (AVEC) making films.  Later years saw him with a ‘retirement’ career as a film and TV actor and extra and small investor in the Australian film industry.

I can’t confirm his enlistment and I can’t ask him as he passed away in 2008.

One of these days, I might uncover those records that tell the official version of his service but, in the meantime, I like to remember ‘that man‘ who was a significant and wickedly mischievous influence on my life.


Wedding Wednesday Revisited

Some twelve or so months ago, I wrote a post about the Richardson family Honiton Lace wedding veil.  As part of the post I included a copy of the only image I had found amongst the family treasures of my grandmother Dorothy Una Ophelia (Richardson) Stockfeld.

Posting this image has resulted in some wondrous happenings – firstly it connected me with a hitherto unknown second cousin. That connection has resulted in some profitable exchanges of information, pictures and stories, new friends on Facebook and, just last month, the chance to meet with said cousin and one of her sisters.

Whilst they were here, we worked through the information I had collected on the maternal side of our family, we exchanged more information, we explored the area where their grandfather (my great uncle) was killed in air crash in 1945, we ate a great deal and talked for hours.

After they had gone home, I started back at work on the latest units of study in the UTAS Diploma of Family History.  One of those units covers images – so back to the box of photos I was steadily working through archiving, scanning, identifying and storing.

Yesterday I found a negative – just floating about loose in the jumble.  A quick look as I held it up to the light revealed what looked like three figures suspiciously like a wedding party. This morning, with some help from the resident tech expert, the image was revealed.

Dorothy Una Ophelia Richardson (centre) Others unknown, photographer Stewart Tompkins (sp?) Camberwell 1926
Dorothy Una Ophelia Richardson (centre) Others unknown, photographer Stuart Tompkins  Camberwell 1926

What a delightful surprise it was to find another part of the story of my Gran’s wedding day.  Now the challenge is to identify the two young ladies accompanying her on her special day.  It is possible they are two of Gran’s Dixon cousins as she grew up with a great tribe of girls around her.

Perhaps one of these ladies, seen here with my Grandmother some 55 years after the wedding, might be one of those fresh faced girls?

Dorothy (far right) circa 1985
Dorothy (far right) circa 1985 with her Dixon cousins, Surrey Hills Vic

Fashion Friday

My Great great grandmother was Lucy Jane Banks – born in Bootle, West Derby, Lancashire in February 1839.  By the time she died, she had migrated firstly to New Zealand and then to Australia and settling in Footscray, Vic.

Lucy as a young woman in Liverpool
Lucy as a young woman in Liverpool

Amongst the family treasures are photographs of her family in Liverpool, examples of her needlework and her own school book all of which she had brought with her from England.   The journey from England to New Zealand was uneventful until the ship neared the Southern Ocean where its masts were damaged in a storm.  The master of the ship continued to sail to New Zealand, where reports of near wrecking were recounted by the grateful passengers when they finally made landfall in Auckland harbour.  The ship was so overdue that little hope of their survival was held. To still have these precious items is quite remarkable considering just how difficult the journey had been.

Lucy - part of a group of pictures that seem to have been taken just prior to the family's departure for New Zealand
Lucy – part of a group of pictures that seem to have been taken just prior to the family’s departure for New Zealand


Lucy, her husband William and their two surviving daughters (including my great grandmother) relocated to Footscray in Melbourne in the early 1880’s. Two of her sons joined the family at a later date.  One remained in New Zealand for the rest of his life.


In her final years in Footscray... my grandmother recalled her looking just like this.
In her final years in Footscray, Vic … my grandmother recalled her looking just like this.

Lucy Jane Banks: born 21 Feb 1839 in Lancashire UK, married William Dixon 17 Nov 1857 at Walton on the Hill, UK and died 22 February 1910 at her home, 22 Charles Street, Footscray, Vic and was buried the next day in the Boroondara General Cemetery, Kew.


All images shown here are from the Stockfeld/Richardson Family collection. Please request permission to use these images and an archival quality file will be supplied by the author.