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Uncle George

Anzac skull

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seaJane

Didn't someone post on the forum regarding an exactly similar situation not very long ago?

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depaor01

From memory the other story was a Verdun skull of a soldier of unknown nationality that was found on a shelf on a school.

This is slightly different as the nationality is known an there's a possible but unrevealed paper trail.

Dave

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voltaire60

 

     I hope this skull is returned  for proper burial.  Yes, the other article recently was of a skull picked up by an American soldier in 1918 at Le Mort Homme", Verdun,which turned up in a school in Oklahoma.

 

       Short of a consent form-which is most highly unlikely- then this is a rather grisly piece of officer looting.  And some questions to go with it:

 

1)  It should be possible to work out which hospital Dr, Shoemaker worked at.

 

2) 1A number of  Australians  died in France on 3rd October 1917-the fifth day after the man was wounded,if the narrative is to be believed.

 

        I do not see how the skull could have been legitimately obtained..  And what of the rest of the man's body??????   Is he one of the "missing" on the memorials for that day? If so,where did the rest of his body go??   If he has a named grave, then how was it not noticed the man had no head-presumably surgically removed, rather than some of the more ad hoc ways of beheading that modern shot and shell throw up.

 

       Time for a bit of homework on the AIF records-which ought to throw up an answer.  DOW after 5 days and wounded on 28th September 1917 certainly makes it likely to trace.

 

      And then -one hopes(at least I do), a rather stiff formal  letter from the Oz Ambassador to the US. And a matter of great concern for CWGC that a body has been dismembered and parts taken. 

Edited by voltaire60

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voltaire60

       From the details given above, there is  strong circumstantial  evidence that the skull is that of  2919 Private Thomas Hurdis, 59th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, who died of wounds on 3rd October 1917 and is buried at Mount Huon Cemetery, Le Treport.

 

      Circumstantial evidence that it is him is contained in his service file, available to view and download on the excellent Discovering Anzacs site.

 

      His file shows the following:

 

Wounded   SW Face and Right Arm, 28th September 1917

 

Moved to 3rd Australian Field Ambulance, 29th September 1917

 

Moved to 16th USA General Hospital at Le Treport, 30th September 1917

 

Died of Wounds 3rd October 1917

 

        1) Date of wounds, 2) nature of wounds, 3) date of death and 4)  United States military hospital are a strong case for it being him, subject to 2 considerations:

 

a)  There are 11 named graves of AIF men in France who died on 3rd October 1917. But Le Treport stands out as the first one to look at- it's where the seriously wounded were taken. Consequently, the other files for the fallen of that day may have to be checked.

 

ii)   His service file contains a dental record card of work done by an Australian dentist after enlistment. I am not competent to read this card, nor to compare it to the  picture of the teeth that can be seen on the skull pictured.

 

         This is a most disturbing matter. I hope that it can be settled quickly and with whatever degree of dignity  that can be mustered in the circumstances

 

 

Edited by voltaire60

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frev

Hi Voltaire - I also looked into this and came up with Thomas Hurdis as well. 

He is the only one who died of wounds on the 3/10/1917, that died at the hospital where Dr WT Shoemaker was serving.

Slight discrepancy however, is that he is actually listed as having been wounded on the 26/9/1917, but wasn't admitted to the 3rd Aust Fld Amb until the 28/9/1917.

The 59th Bn attacked the German positions in Polygon Wood on the 26th & 27th, and were relieved on the evening of the 27th.

[SHOEMAKER, William Toy

: Served with Pennsylvania Base Hospital No. 10, which took over British No. 16 General Hospital, B.E.F., Le Treport]

Cheers, Frev

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helpjpl

Pennsylvania Base Hospital No. 10, Le Treport

William Toy Shoemaker (page 223):

https://archive.org/stream/historypennsylv01goog#page/n298/mode/2up

 

See also page 243:

'By the courtesy of the British Medical Services, the privilege was extended to us shortly after our arrival of collecting material for a museum collection of Military Pathology. Over two hundred wet and dry specimens were gathered from autopsies and operative material, and later presented by the Unit to the Mutter Museum of the college of Physicians, where they are now on exhibition.'

https://archive.org/stream/historypennsylv01goog#page/n318/mode/2up

 

JP

 

Edited by helpjpl
Spelling mistake!

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michaeldr
25 minutes ago, helpjpl said:

'By the courtesy of the British Medical Services, the privilege was extended to us shortly after our arrival of collecting material for a museum collection of Military Pathology. Over two hundred wet and dry specimens were gathered from autopsies and operative material, and later presented by the Unit to the Mutter Museum of the college of Physicians, where they are now on exhibition.'

 

Not only 'by the courtesy of the British Medical Services [RAMC?]...........................'

but the next sentence indicates active co-operation from the RCS

“After preparation in the laboratory, the specimens were shipped from time to time by ambulance train to the Royal College of Surgeons in London, where they were well cared for and later forwarded to us through the kindness of Prof. Arthur Keith.”

[re the latter, see also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Keith and in more detail here http://rsbm.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/roybiogmem/1/145.full.pdf]

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Simon_Fielding

Dr William Toy Shoemaker 

 

 

taos00058-0046.pdf

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John_Hartley

I agree that Hurdis looks like the only candidate for the casualty.

 

We know that the patient was in Shoemaker's care - he was in charge of the X-ray unit at the Le Treport hospital. We know he was Australian and when he died. As such, finding Hurdis was a very straighforward look at CWGC records. There is no-on else who fits the known facts.

 

What we seem to have here is some gruesome taking of what I can only consider to be a "scientific trophy". These are not random bits and bobs of a man's body which might have been amputated but a deliberate removal of his skull after death. Even allowing for this being a "different place at a different time", I am appalled at the callousness of it. I am tryinmg to get hold of the journalist to make him aware that a probable identification can be made and I've also emailed CWGC and the OAWG with a similar suggestion. Perhaps others here might like to make contact with them. What is obviously needed is pressure to be put on the museum, by the official bodies, to release the skull and allow it to be returned to France for reburial with the rest of Hurdis's remains.

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voltaire60
3 hours ago, frev said:

Hi Voltaire - I also looked into this and came up with Thomas Hurdis as well. 

He is the only one who died of wounds on the 3/10/1917, that died at the hospital where Dr WT Shoemaker was serving.

Slight discrepancy however, is that he is actually listed as having been wounded on the 26/9/1917, but wasn't admitted to the 3rd Aust Fld Amb until the 28/9/1917.

The 59th Bn attacked the German positions in Polygon Wood on the 26th & 27th, and were relieved on the evening of the 27th.

 

 

[SHOEMAKER, William Toy

 

: Served with Pennsylvania Base Hospital No. 10, which took over British No. 16 General Hospital, B.E.F., Le Treport]

Cheers, Frev

 

   Hi Frev- Yes, I picked up the 26th dating-but it goes for consistence of of 28th for pretty much all of the records.   Quite possible that he was only picked up on 28th but pretty much all the records have 28th as the date-and, presumably, that is what Dr. Shoemaker had as his information at Le Treport. 

2 hours ago, helpjpl said:

Pennsylvania Base Hospital No. 10, Le Treport

William Toy Shoemaker (page 223):

https://archive.org/stream/historypennsylv01goog#page/n298/mode/2up

 

See also page 243:

'By the courtesy of the British Medical Services, the privilege was extended to us shortly after our arrival of collecting material for a museum collection of Military Pathology. Over two hundred wet and dry specimens were gathered from autopsies and operative material, and later presented by the Unit to the Mutter Museum of the college of Physicians, where they are now on exhibition.'

https://archive.org/stream/historypennsylv01goog#page/n318/mode/2up

 

JP

 

 

      This is extremely worrying. Just what else was taken?  The thought that this is pre- CWGC is also alarming.  Does this mean there are bits of Allied servicemen all over the place?

Edited by voltaire60

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Simon_Fielding

Shoemaker seems to have had a lifetime of public service and as I've said elsewhere, I suspect he saved plenty of lives at Le Treport. That said, the fact that an identification is relatively easy, and the public display of the skull, make this unacceptable. I felt the same way about the King's German Legion casualty displayed in the Waterloo museum discussed recently. This is a CWGC / AM issue that needs careful handling. What would they do with a skull and I'D object found on a former battlefield?  

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Simon_Fielding

Thomas HURDIS

 

Regimental number 2919
Place of birth Newtown, New South Wales
School Leichhardt Public School, New South Wales
Religion Church of England
Occupation Labourer
Address Yetman via Warialda, New South Wales
Marital status Single
Age at embarkation 26
Next of kin Mother, Mrs Harriet Hurdis, 27 Warialda Street, Kogarah, New South Wales
Enlistment date 12 September 1916
Rank on enlistment Private
Unit name 59th Battalion, 7th Reinforcement
AWM Embarkation Roll number 23/76/4
Embarkation details Unit embarked from Sydney, New South Wales, on board HMAT A19 Afric on 3 November 1916
Rank from Nominal Roll Private
Unit from Nominal Roll 59th Battalion
Fate Died of wounds 3 October 1917
Miscellaneous details (Nominal Roll) *surname two spellings Hurdies and Hudis
Place of death or wounding France
Age at death 27
Place of burial Mont Huon Military Cemetery (Plot IV, Row O, Grave No. IA), Le Treport, France
Panel number, Roll of Honour,
  Australian War Memorial
167
Miscellaneous information from
  cemetery records
Parents: John and Harriet HURDIS, 132 Henderson Road, Alexandria, New South Wales
Family/military connections Brother: 2818 Pte John HURDIS, 54th Bn, killed in action, 19 July 1916.
Other details

War service: Western Front

 

Medals: British War Medal, Victory Medal

 

Print format    

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voltaire60

       Phew!!   A topic I was only generally aware of-  There is an excellent piece of work by a modern doctor which is very, very informative on all of this:

 

A Cooke's tour to find the remaining pathology specimens collected ...

 
   Problem seems to be that this particular item could be identified and linked to a specific casualty. A clear conflict of interests- the collection  of medical specimens by whatever means has undoubtedly advanced the cause of medicine for all of us-and the moral debate about how far it is appropriate to gain medical insights and advances on the backs of human misery is all too obvious from other circumstances- Let's not go there too much.
   If there is a clear conflict between medical research and the remains being identifiable, then I think that an exercise in "anonymising" anatomical specimens should be the order of the day.  If there are items that are identifiable  by modern medical techniques-and the opening up of paper records, then that should be a priority.

 

Edited by voltaire60

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Simon_Fielding

Excellent article - very thorough. 

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Auimfo

Seems we all went down the same road and came up with the same result.  

2919 Private Thomas HURDIS, 59th Bn for mine as well.  Can't really see it being anyone else.

 

Cheers, 

Tim L.

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Uncle George

This from the Mutter Museum website:

 


Regarding a recent Guardian article

 

Regarding the article that appeared online in The Guardian, on Monday, September 25, 2017:

 

The Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia is, as the article suggested, already in communication with the appropriate officials within the Australian Army regarding the cited specimen.

 

This is being treated with the highest regard to protocol and precedent for such specimens.

 

The Museum will release a further statement when appropriate.

 

http://muttermuseum.org/news/regarding-a-recent-guardian-article/

 

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John_Hartley

Tim

 

From your Fromelles experience, is there any particular person whose cage we should be rattling to get this moving forward. I presume we are all agreed that this is almost certainly Hurdis and his skull should be reunited with the rest of his remains at Le Treport.

 

I see CWGC records next of kin information. It's an uncommon surname so I presume not too difficult to see if there are living descendents who might provide DNA for absolute proof.

 

John

 

 

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John_Hartley

Email now sent to the museum advising that we believe we have made an ID and suggesting, for that reason, they do the "decent thing" and return the skull for reburial with Hurdis' other remains.

 

All that said, we are all going to look damn stupid if they open the grave and there's a complete skeleton in there. Seems unlikely but.........

 

John

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Auimfo

Will make some enquiries John.   Have the direct email address for Director OAWG.

Also - have done some hunting and located current phone number for his niece (daughter of Thomas' youngest sister).  Won't ring just yet but have it if/when needed.

 

Probably like many here have already done, I checked through the entire service file to see if there was any mention of the skull being used for these purposes and maybe family permission but as expected I couldn't see anything of the sort and by the looks of it the family were never consulted nor had any knowledge.

 

Cheers,

Tim L.

 

Edit:  I just noticed the article mentions that the Unrecovered War Casualties Office is aware and making enquiries.  Probably a phone call there might also help.  

 

Edited by Auimfo

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John_Hartley
54 minutes ago, Auimfo said:

by the looks of it the family were never consulted nor had any knowledge.

Not only that but there's a rather odd letter to the mother dated 21/7/1920 which suggests they don't know a place of burial. Now, that's odd for a hospital death and it may well be just a clerical error caused by the possible mis-spellings of the name.  Now I'm not one normally to rush off to conspiracy theories but......

 

John

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Simon_Fielding

DrLooks like Hurdis was a bit of a tearaway: does this description tally with his medical records? Date 1906 Police Gazette... 

 

 

 

31842_216750-00194_20170927192642524.jpg

Edited by Simon_Fielding

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Simon_Fielding

4998326922772480.jpg

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Simon_Fielding

6079357675372544 (2).jpg

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voltaire60

  Given the fall of the calendar, then let us hope that there will be some sort of announcement by Mutter/ CWGC/ Oz Govt. on or by 3rd October-the centenary of this man's death.  I, for one, will be somewhat troubled by the thought between now (Wed. 27th) and then that this poor man suffered so terribly across a period of 5 -7 days and that-as with literally millions of others, no amount of information, historical research, etc can give one iota's worth of sense as to the tragedy that the war was.

 

       A degree of sensible publicity about his injuries, his life and the ways in which we commemorate may all be suitable items for reflection by all of us for the next few days. Let's hope-personal view here-that an announcement of repatriation of remains might give some benign end to this distressing story.

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