In 1965 James Carlin, a World War I veteran, applied to join the Menindee Sub-Branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia (RSSALIA). The RSSALIA wrote to the Army on Carlin’s behalf to obtain a certificate of discharge as proof of his active service.
But the Army was unable to find any record of a James Carlin – and it was then that the story got interesting!
It turned out that James Carlin had indeed enlisted for World War I – twice, in fact – but under two other names.
In July 1915 he joined up as Frederick John Holden. He sailed for the Middle East, but was discharged as medically unfit in January 1916 without having seen active duty.
Re-enlisting in November 1916 as Francis Henry Hogan, he swore a statutory declaration that his previous enlistment had been under his ‘professional’ name. On his way overseas for a second time, he failed to re-embark in Fremantle. He eventually served in France, but was gassed in August 1918, then discharged and returned to Australia.
In the 1920s, he abandoned his stepfather’s name, Hogan, and began to use Carlin, his mother’s maiden name. He told the Army that the name changes were due to ‘domestic strife’.
It was not, however, just Carlin’s name that changed. He gave his place of birth variously as Kent in the United Kingdom, Cobar in New South Wales and Batavia River in Queensland!
Further adding to the mystery, he listed his new wife as his next of kin, but during the war she and two other women – one from London and the other from Perth – sought his whereabouts from the Defence Department.
In the end James Carlin did receive his certificate of discharge from the Army – in the name of Private Francis Henry Hogan.
Records of men and women who served Australia during World War I are preserved in the National Archives and most are available online.
You can find out more by following the links in the table below.