Friday, March 1, 2013

A Wagner Family Artifact Comes Home to the Family

You never know what contacts you might make as a result of an online family history blog. Sure, I've had the great pleasure of being contacted by long, 'lost' cousins but never before did I imagine that a family artifact would find it's way back to the family as a result of my blog.

Don Wagner (no known relationship to my wife) runs the Soldier's Museum website. As a history buff, Don also finds and collects historical artifacts. One of Don's finds was a small, hard covered book (pictured below) entitled, "Americans' Guide to Hindustani." The book is best described as a pocket-sized dictionary containing the Hindi-Urdu translations of useful English language phrases and words, likely a useful book to have if you were born in Saskatchewan, Canada and posted during World War 2 to north India.




On the inside flyleaf of the book (pictured below), the soldier who owned the book had written his name and regimental assignment, "F/O Gordon Wagner - 229 Group RAF India."





When Don decided to do a little research to see if he could find any additional information about the soldier, a Google search lead him to my blog post about Ellen's uncle, Gordon  Gilbert Henry Wagner. Don left a comment on my Gordon Wagner blog post and then also contacted me by email to see if we could determine if 'my' Gordon Wagner was the same Gordon Wagner who had written his name inside the book.

There are precious few records available in Canada covering the 1,159,000 Canadians who served in World War 2 and there are access restrictions to the service files of those who survived the war, including Gordon. Fortunately for me, Gordon had two passionate interests that he pursued in his retirement. Genealogy and writing.

Gordon's genealogy research served as the initial basis for my own research of the great history connected with Ellen's family. Gordon's passion for writing resulted in the publication of several books, including his autobiographical recollections of his time in the Royal Canadian Air Force, entitled "How Papa Won The War" (published by the Flying-W-Publishing Co. in 1989). 

On page 157 of the book, Gordon wrote, "In their campaign to chase the Japanese out of Burma, the British army needed aircraft to transport supplies and paratroops into the jungles of north-western Burma. The Royal Air Force received the army's request and asked the Royal Canadian Air Force to supply the aircrews. The RAF would fly us to India, providing the planes and the base. The RCAF would form two squadrons, train the crews and take the squadrons into Burma. At least that was the plan, a good one really."

Gordon provided a copy of his new assignment to the RAF, dated September 12, 1944 to the 229 Group India.

So both 'my' Gordon Wagner and the Gordon Wagner who owned the book were both assigned to the 229 Group in India during World War 2. It's still possible that they are two different people but I doubt that very much.

I agreed to a price for the book (or maybe it was a finder's fee) with Don and he mailed the book to me. It arrived back in the hands of the Wagner family today!


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