During 2014 Ron Badock and his daughter Cheryl were clearing and sorting the large collection of 2/4th files and boxes containing past minutes of meetings, financial records, Boreholes, memorabilia, etc. dating back to 1950s which Ron had inherited from past office bearers.
Found amongst the collection was a small, old and rusting tobacco tin with ‘A.E. Morrissey’ written across the top. Inside were medals with original tissue paper, evidently never unwrapped.
Thus began the search for Albert Edward Morrisey, to seek his family and hopefully find a resting place for this medals.
John Gilmour was the only veteran who remembered Bert, however we knew little else of his life after the end of the war.
Firstly I located Bert Morrisey’s headstone(s) at the Yalgoo cemetery (Yalgoo being his hometown). His military headstone confirming his wife and sons and a second headstone which recorded his siblings (Bert was one of 8 children) and parents, Marjery and William Frances Morrisey. He had died 13 May 1947 aged 32 years, just 2 years following the end of the war and his return from Japan.
His father William Francis Morrissey is also buried at Yalgoo. Bert and his father are 2 of 13 Morrissey at the Yalgoo cemetery. William Morrissey died 18 May 1957 aged 76 years, 10 years after Bert who was one of 8 children.
During the next few months I was able to establish Bert Morrisey’s tragic suicide
Through Trove archives and Ancestry I was further able to acquire details of Bert’s suicide.
In 1939 Bert Morrissey was employed as a miner in the Yalgoo region, which then was nearing the end of its history with mining. He married Phyllis Courtenay in 1940, their first son was born later in the year. Their second son was born in 1941 and in August of the same year, Bert enlisted in the AIF, and the 2/4th MG Btn.
Bert was a POW in Changi, Burma Line and finally Japan. He survived, returned to Perth and was discharged 14 January 1946. Returning home to his wife Phyllis and his two sons at Yalgoo, he ‘resumed’ his life as a miner. The Morrissey’s had a third son John. In 1947 Bert was employed at the mine at Reedy (located between Meekathara and Cue).
Bert did not cope so well after returning to Western Australia, and tragically on the 13th of May in 1947, whilst Phyllis was away in Perth, a terrible tragedy occurred. Bert shot himself, dying soon after.
We can only believe the torment and ghosts facing Bert were so great that he saw no way forward – he possibly felt isolated away from his former 2/4th mates – the only persons who knew exactly how he felt and what was going on in his day to day life.
His death at the age of 32 years, left a young widow and three young sons. The third son John, born in 1947 and would have been less than 12 months old, the eldest was 7 years.
With no income to support her three sons (there was no social welfare) we cannot imagine how Phyllis began to grieve the unexpected loss of her young husband, and arrive at the decision that she could not provide for them.
It was therefore arranged the three Morrissey boys would be brought up by Phyllis’s sister and husband.
John Morrissey and his two brothers moved around Western Australia regularly with their aunt and uncle in his role in the police force. They were only ever to see their mother very occasionally as Phyllis found work housekeeping mainly for farming families. She never remarried.
John Morrissey followed in his Uncle’s footsteps and joined the WA Police Force.
He always wondered what had happened to his father’s medals and assumed his grandmother may have originally acquired them.
When his father’s medals were presented to him, John’s hands were shaking with the WWII medals, wrapped in the original tissue paper. “I have been presented with medals on several occasions during my life, but today is the highlight” said John Morrisey.
John Gilmour and Bert Morrissey were in “A” Company and knew each other well. John Morrissey knew of John Gilmour’s athletic feats – there was no stopping the exchange of chatter throughout lunch with the Committee members at Anzac House.
We agreed with Ron Badock…………. “It was a successful ending to what began as a total mystery and was soon filled with sadness”.