Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Gadsdon by any other name ...

George Stephen Gadsdon (later changed his name to Leader) as a dashing young officer in the 6th Dragoon Guards, the emblems on the sleeve of his uniform indicating his prowess at marksmanship and swordplay.  He was also a boxer of note.

Though he spent a great deal of time in the army, George seems not to have taken readily to authority: he was court-martialled four times for various offences, including being in possession of a stolen pistol and for being drunk on the frontline in France, allowing a prisoner in his care to escape. On another occasion, he objected vehemently to what he considered an inappropriate order by a commanding officer on board ship, when repatriating prisoners after World War I. He had applied in 1916 to join the 'special services' transporting detainees back to their counry of origin, making his application under yet another name - George Ford.

There's an obvious lesson here for family historians: an ancestor could take on several new identities, making it more difficult to track down every phase of his career. When George emigrated to Australia he changed his surname to Leader. There he worked on a site building the Burrinjuk Dam as well as on the railroad in 1914. By the start of World War I he was an Australian citizen and may have enlisted under the name Leader. He was then about 33 and apparently unmarried. It was while recuperating in hospital after suffering the effects of mustard gas (in France) that he met his wife, Emily Toovey, who was a nurse. 

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