On 28 October 2018, after many hours of searching, I finally unearthed a 100 year family mystery -- who my great grandfather is and my true paternal line.
Was my grandfather the biological son of his father?
Was the story about my great grandmother having a young boyfriend soldier who died at France true?
These were the questions I sought answers to. The following truth was revealed.
Young Henry Charles Banfield of Ulverstone was only 20 when he went off to war on 29 June 1915, leaving behind his newly pregnant 18 year old girlfriend Ada in Sassafras, Tasmania. Sadly, young Henry didn't return and was killed in action in France on 29 July 1916.
Henry's son, my grandfather, was born the first week of February 1916. The following year my widowed great-grandmother married a recently widowed man who lived near Mt Roland in Tasmania. My grandfather was raised as his son taking on his name, which was passed on to my father.
My father, for reasons still unknown, disappeared from my life when I was five. He was a kind hearted, good man who people spoke highly of - so his disappearance is a mystery.
In 2015, 30 years had passed since I had seen my dad and I decided to look for him. At the time I was working in South Melbourne and each afternoon would ride my bicycle home. I would ride through Albert Park and down to St Kilda along the bay until I reached my home in Brighton. When I was close to home I'd stop for a drink and a stretch whilst looking out across the bay. I would see the Spirit of Tasmania ship in the distance and it reminded me of my father. My father had taken my brother and I to Tasmania on the ship when I was four and my brother was six. It made me wonder where my father was and what had happened with him, and this led to my decision to find him.
After a few months searching for my father I managed to get in contact with his eldest sister in Tasmania. Sadly, I was too late - my father had already passed away a few years earlier.
I was reconnected with family in Tasmania I hadn't seen since I was four. Some months later I moved from Melbourne to Launceston to be close to family. A new chapter had opened in my life and I was keen to learn about my father and family, my ancestors and their land. I spent countless hours on genealogy research. I was thinking about changing my surname to my dad's name in honour of him.
A relative from my grandfather's hometown near Mt Roland told me that my late grandfather wasn't the biological son of his father. She told me the story about a soldier going to war and not returning - leaving behind his young sweetheart who was pregnant. Nobody knew if this story was true and who the soldier may have been if it was. Others believed that the father who raised my grandfather was his biological father. I decided to explore both possibilities. I wanted to know my great-grandfather and about my true paternal line.
After months of searching for answers I finally found the truth - Henry Charles Banfield is my great-grandfather and the soldier story is true. My prayers had been answered. Henry, who was stolen by the war 100 years ago is now rightfully restored to his family - his many descendants. A brave heroic forefather who gave his all. A forefather to be proud of. A forefather to be remembered and honoured. A forefather who lives on through over 200 of his descendants over five generations living throughout Australia.
Now, I see our Australian Flag through new eyes. I see my great grandfather Henry Charles Banfield. I see the men, women and children who served. I see the widows, families and friends who lost loved ones physically and mentally. I see communities who lost their best and bravest -- and I am humbled.
Armistice, 100 years ago, marked the beginning of peace, rebuilding and restoration, and remembrance on the home front. The Centenary of Armistice marks for me the restoration of a forefather, peace to my soul, and the remembrance of my Great Grandfather Henry Charles Banfield - who gave his all.
Thank You Great-Grandfather Henry.
I will remember you and the sacrifice you made.
Lest We Forget
Love from your great grandson Darryl Smith (Banfield)