52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Week 8 (February 19-25): Heirloom
The frame below was given to Mark Palmer Williamson by his father John Palmer Williamson before he died. It commemorates the Military and Naval service of John Aaron Palmer Williamson, father to John and grandfather to Mark.
|Photographer Sandra Williamson, Frame of John Aaron Palmer Williamson’s Military & Naval Memorabilia digital image, 2017, Mark Williamson’s Personal Collection[w138]|
As children, we did not really know our grandfather. I can only remember meeting him a few times. So when my father casually passed the memorabilia frame to my brother we were all surprised. Although the frame belongs to my brother, at the moment it sits proudly on the wall in my own home as I temporarily safeguard from the humidity and extreme weather conditions of the Darwin climes where my brother lives.
In 2006 I was visited by a distant cousin Warren Jacka (2nd cousin once removed) who was visiting from Western Australia. He stood looking at the frame and said “Do you know it looks like he was a member of Navy and the air force. You can tell by the buttons”.
It wasn’t until almost 11 years later I began to conduct my own research into the artifacts in the frame.
Taking a closer look
Examining the photograph
I have four other photographs of John in various uniforms showing John as a member of various forces which I hope to write up soon with what I have found, but for this post I will focus on the contents of the frame alone and what it reveals.
|Photographer unknown, JP Williamson wearing a Merchant Navy uniform, post WW1, Author’s Private Photo Collection [W027]|
The only photograph in the frame
“appears to be a Merchant Navy uniform, not Royal Australian Navy. He is wearing his medal ribbons so it is post First World War. The rank worn on his cuff is Second Officer.”[i]
John was born in 1892 so the approximate date of this photo must be sometime after or at the end of 1919 when returned to the sea as an engineer.[ii]
A Closer Look at the buttons & badges
|Photographer Sandra Williamson, Merchant Navy Button originally owned by John Palmer Williamson, digital image, 2017, Mark Williamson’s Personal Collection[w139][iii]|
|Photographer Sandra Williamson, Rising Sun badge originally owned by John Palmer Williamson [SERN 10030], digital image, 2017, Mark Williamson’s Personal Collection.[ w145]|
|Figure 10 Photographer Sandra Williamson, Australian Military Forces button 1914-1945 originally owned by John Palmer Williamson [SERN 10030], digital image, 2017, Mark Williamson’s Personal Collection[w144]|
King Albert I Veteran's Cross 1909-1934, is another unofficial medal which was made available by purchase in the late 1960s and 1970s to all Allied veterans of the First World War who had served in Belgium during the First World War, or their next of kin.
John Palmer WilliamsonJohn Aaron Palmer Williamson was born 28 April 1892 in York, Western Australia to Moses Williamson and Caroline Williamson formerly Munro.[viii] John was one of six children; four were boys of which three enlisted in the AIF.[ix]
John married Margaret Edith Jacka on 2 September 1922 in the Methodist Church, Hamilton, New South Wales, Australia.[x]
He died 30 Jun 1982 Boonah, Queensland, and buried on 2 July 1982 Kalbar, Queensland, Australia[xi]
A quick summary of his War Service
He supported both Australia and its allies in both the First World War (WW1) and Second World War (WW2). He did serve in the Royal Navy but left to serve in Singapore for one year prior to WW1. His service in WW1 began in the Merchant Navy and then he enlisted soldier in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). His service during WW2 was in a civilian capacity within Australia and as a mariner for the American Coast Guard. Despite challenges to his health during WW1 he never wavered in his support of the nation’s war effort.
[i] Garth O'Connell (Curator Military Heraldry and Technology Australian War Memorial) to Sandra Williamson, email, 29 September 2017, Original in author’s possession.
[ii] Certificate of Discharge MALAITA 4 September 1920 Melbourne for John Palmer Williamson, Personal papers of John Williamson held by son John Williamson, photocopy held by author. [Engaged date 9 June 1920, Newcastle]; Alexander Weir (Chief Eng), Letter of reference for J.A. Williamson, 14 September 1920. Personal papers of John Williamson held by son John Williamson, photocopy held by author. [Period of service on the MALAITA 4 September 1920 to 14 September 1920.]; [Unable to read name] Director of Huddart Parker Limited, S.S.RIVERIA [Period of service 28 December 1920 to 9 March 1921] & S.S.CORIO [Period of service 3 March to 10 September 1921], Personal papers of John Williamson held by son John Williamson, photocopy held by author.
[iii] Collections.anmm.gov.au. (2018). Uniform button from the Merchant Navy. [online] Available at: http://collections.anmm.gov.au/objects/41380 [Accessed 21 Feb. 2018].
[iv] Atlantic-cable.com. (2018). History of the Atlantic Cable & Submarine Telegraphy - Eastern Telegraph Company Buttons. [online] Available at: http://atlantic-cable.com/CableCos/CandW/Eastern/Malta/index.htm [Accessed 21 Feb. 2018].
[v] Memorial, T. (2018). Australian Military Forces button 1914-1945. [online] Awm.gov.au. Available at: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C1214181 [Accessed 21 Feb. 2018].
[vi] Merchant seamen's campaign medal records 1914-1918 - The National Archives. (2017). The National Archives. Retrieved 3 October 2017, from http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/merchant-seamens-campaign-medal-records-1914-1918/
[vii] Home: World War One: Department of Defence. (2017). Defence.gov.au. Retrieved 3 October 2017, from http://www.defence.gov.au/Medals/Imperial/WWI/default.asp
[viii] Birth Certificate John Aaron Palmer Williamson, born 28 April 1892, Registrar of Birth, Death and Marriages Western Australia. 630 /1892
[ix] Death Certificate of Moses Williamson, died 25 June 1933, Registrar of Birth, Death and Marriages, New South Wales, 10306/1933; Service Record for John Palmer Williamson, p.1, B2455, National Archives of Australia; Service Record of Cuthbert Morton Williamson, p.1, B2455, National Archives of Australia; Service Record of Henry Andrew Williamson, p.1, B2455 National Archives of Australia.
[x] Marriage Certificate of John Palmer Williamson & Margaret Rita Jacka, married 2 Sep 1922, Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Queensland Australia. 11616/1922
[xi] Death Certificate of John Aaron Palmer Williamson, died 30 Jun 1982, Registrar of Birth, Death and Marriages, Queensland, 55286/1982