As I have now arrived at the end of my project I am happy to say I have reconnected with Harold’s second family and with part of my grandfather John Mitchell’s Scottish family.
Meet Tony (Anthony) Lilja, Harold’s son to his second wife Mary Patricia. Tony is my mother’s half-brother, and my half-uncle. It is Tony who shared his father’s WWI 34th Battalion diary with me and photos and a painting of my grandfather. Tony is pictured here with his father’s WWI and WWII medal ribbon bar and the WWI Victory medal, and WWII medals.
Tony’s fondest memory of his father is going up to their weekender cabin on Scotland Island on Pittwater where they would often fish off the sundeck. He said it took 1.5 hours on the bus and then the ferry ride to get there. He was about thirteen at the time. Tony said it was also the place where Harold would go sometimes when he separated for periods from his second wife, Tony’s mother.
I asked Tony if Harold ever spoke about his WWI experiences and he said “never” except when he had his breakdowns, then he would talk a bit. And he confirmed that Harold had spent several periods in Callan Park Mental Hospital. Tony too has visited the Western Front battlefields to honour his father’s service.
To date I have searched in vain for more information on my other grandfather, John Mitchell’s WWI service. There were so many John Mitchells in the Royal Scottish Regiment. But thanks to an Ancestry.com subscription Christmas present from my daughter I am starting to narrow down this search.
After I did an Ancestry DNA test Scott Mitchell Muir, a grandson of John’s youngest Scottish brother Alexander has found me. John’s youngest siblings were put into an orphan’s home after their mother died in 1914. Scott lives in England but sadly has no further information on John but is very happy to have found his Mitchell family in Australia!
I have never been to Scotland Island….so I am off to visit it right now!
Lest we forget!