Group Effort To Trace Relatives Successfully Returns Service Book

The police photo of the book.
The police photo of the book.

A soldier’s record of service from World War II is on the way to the relatives of its former owner thanks to police, family history, and Facebook.  Police found the book after it was stolen, then found by them at a home in the Wales town of Nimbin in northern New South Wales.

The book had belonged to Richard Slee, who was born in Broken Hill and moved to Adelaide prior to his enlistment, one year after the war was declared by England in 1939.

Richmond Local Area Command Senior Constable David Henderson said the book was discovered recently but locating the rightful owner proved difficult.

If it was his grandfather, he would be absolutely captivated by the service book and he would want it, Henderson said.

Police used Facebook to appeal for help and were surprised by the reaction.

They have had 18,000 people look at it, and many people became detectives to help solve the mystery, Henderson said.

One of the sleuths interested by the appeal was Deirdre Kinghorn, an Orange resident in the NSW central-west part of New South Wales.

Ms. Kinghorn said she had lived at Broken Hill, so she made contact with some locals.

“A couple of people said there are Slees in Broken Hill, so I noted a few people on the social media site,” she said.

She used and typed in Richard Mervin Slee, Broken Hill and the date, and it showed Robert Marks, and he got back to her within 24 hours, she explained.

Dr. Marks, an amateur genealogist from Sydney’s Balmain, was a distant relative of Gwendoline Meleng, Mr. Slee’s spouse.

He said Mr. Slee died in 1957 and Ms. Meleng had died in 1978.

They had a couple of children who Dr. Marks will try to communicate with so the book can be passed on once more.

He said his research had also disclosed that Mr. Slee reached a lieutenant’s rank in the 7th Division of the Australian Army, and served nine years from 1939 to 1948, ABC News reported.

His occupation was listed as a wool professional, and he had an avid interest in the sport of kings — horse racing.

Ms. Kinghorn said she was happy to have played a role in helping the book find the relatives.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE