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Captain Ateo Giusto Leale Frandi killed at Gallipoli 8 May 1915
The Mystery Surrounding His Colonial Auxiliary Forces Medal
As Fate would have it, on 8 May in 2014 a comment was posted on my blog on the opening page: My Life And Rhymes
The writer was Verna Crowley from Otaki in New Zealand:
Hi Anne, I came across your story while I was researching Ateo Frandi…I have in my possession a medal with his name inscribed on it. It was issued in 1911 for his long service with the Colonial Auxiliary Forces. I would dearly love for it to be returned to his family, he has no direct issue but if you know of a family member I can pass it onto I would appreciate it. Thanks.
I replied that I would so love the medal which I would treasure as would my family. The only memento I have from the Frandi family is a set of broken Rosary beads cherished by my mother, Doreen Frandi. Her father, Alfredo, was Ateo Frandi’s youngest brother and while Ateo died before she was born, Doreen knew Ateo’s sister, Italia, very well. By all accounts, Italia had a soft spot for the troubled Doreen. Ateo and his only sister, Italia, were close in age, both born in Pisa and devoted to each other. Both of Italia’s daughters were deceased and Italia’s only grandchild didn’t have any children. I truly didn’t know anyone else to recommend.
We subsequently continued our conversation by private email. Verna goes on to explain how the medal came to be in her possession, which I was eager to discover. Was she related to the Frandi family I had asked?
The medal was among Verna’s grandmother’s treasured possessions which after her death were handed down to Verna’s mother. It was alongside her first husband’s WW1 medals and papers. Verna has no idea whether either of her grandparents and my great uncle knew one another, but it is possible that they did; the time frame fits, according to Verna. Her grandparents married in 1916, and had a daughter together, (Verna’s mother) but her grandfather never returned from the war. He is buried at Cologne cemetery in Germany. Verna’s grandmother later remarried and had more children.
Tragedy intervenes once again and Verna’s mother suffers the same fate as her mother before her; she also lost her first husband, this time during WW2, and he is buried in Belgium. She also remarried and had three children to her second husband of whom Verna was the youngest. Verna’s mother died in 1971 but none of her three children were given any of their mother’s possessions. Later, her father married again and had more children to his second wife. When Verna’s father died in 2007 Verna and her sister, (their brother was deceased), contested their father’s Will. Some of the few of their mother’s possessions the sisters received were her first husband’s medals along with her father’s.The medals were still in the same box that their mother had always kept them in.
Verna continues in a letter which accompanied Ateo’s medal:
I was looking through your blog and read your post, Letters To Anne Frandi-Coory. I was blown away and I truly believe that Ateo’s medal was meant for you all along. I am convinced a higher power, maybe my mother, encouraged me to find you. If all three circumstances hadn’t come together at around the same time, the medal would probably have been lost forever and never returned to its rightful home.
• My sister and I received, in 2009, the few things that belonged to our mother
• Your memoir and Frandi family history Whatever Happened To Ishtar? was published in 2010,
• This significant ANZAC year of 2014 prompted us to scrutinise carefully the papers and medals we received as a result of contesting our father’s Will. discovering that one of the medals had a different name on it.
I couldn’t get that medal out of my mind and so I decided to research the name and other details inscribed on the medal. I found a few clues and of course your web site. If we had rightfully received our mother’s treasures years ago, and tried to find Ateo’s descendents at that time we would not have been able to trace any and that would have been the end of it.
Your mother, Doreen Frandi, lived at 56 Hewer Crescent, Naenae in Wellington and her next door neighbours at number 54 were the Hardies; a father and three children, Trevor, Roberta and Marianne. Roberta worked at the Phillip’s factory nearby for many years, possibly alongside Doreen. We lived at 28 Hewer Crescent.
Many connections, but the mystery remains: how did Verna’s mother come to have Ateo Frandi’s war service medal in her possession? Did Doreen give it to Verna’s mother for safe-keeping (Kevin believes this is unlikely) or perhaps Verna’s grandfather and Ateo were war mates and Italia gave the medal to him? Perhaps someone reading this post could enlighten us.
My great uncle Ateo Frandi was born in Pisa Italy on 4 May 1873. His family emigrated to New Zealand in 1876 and eventually settled in Okuru on the West Coast of New Zealand in 1877. (See blog post OKURU SETTLEMENT).
Ateo was killed on the Daisy Patch at Cape Helles in the Dardanelles on Saturday 8 May 1915 during an attack on the Turkish position. He stood up to give an order when he was shot in the head by a sniper, dying instantly. His body was never recovered. His sister Italia Frandi Corich proudly paid for his name to be engraved on one of the carillon bells, named Krithia. There were originally a total of 49 bells erected in the war memorial Peace Tower in Buckle Street, Wellington in 1931. Each bell had the name of a soldier who died at Gallipoli and who had no known grave.
There is a street named Frandi in honour of Ateo in Thorndon Street, Wellington New Zealand not far from where Ateo lived with his parents before he left for Gallipoli.