Community & Business

10 July, 2024

Search reveals watch’s rightful owners

A FAMILY heirloom has returned home after over half a century, thanks to the help of a passionate artifact collector at the Mareeba Heritage Centre.

The World War II watch which will now be returned to the family of its original owner.
The World War II watch which will now be returned to the family of its original owner.

Volunteers collection manager Louise Mahoney could not believe her eyes when a traveller donated an old watch dating back to World War II to the centre.

The watch had engraved on the back “To Lieut R.E Flint from William Adams Staff Comfort Fund 1942-1945”.


“It was about two months ago and an old fella and his wife came to the centre wanting to donate the watch but I wasn’t there at the time,” she said.

“One of the other volunteers took it … and then the fella came back asking where we had put it on display – I didn’t have the heart to tell him we don’t accept donations that aren’t from the Mareeba Shire and that we don’t have a WWII display yet.”

Louise then asked the man questions about the watch’s origins, and learned that he was gifted the time piece while working on the Manly ferry in Sydney.

The man was a passionate World War II artifact collector, and while travelling to Mareeba, he knew the historic centre would be the perfect home for the watch.

Even though Louise couldn’t display the watch, she was determined to track down the rightful owners of Robert Gordon Ellice-Flint’s watch.

“Because the watch had engravings on the back, I thought I would do some research and try and find the family of the owner,” Louise said.

“I went through four avenues to narrow it down – first being the National Archives, because the owner was a Lieutenant, which narrowed it down.

“Then from there I went into the Trove newspapers and found the family’s engagement announcement for the man himself and his wife in 1946 after the war.

“So then, I went onto and found his obituary, written by a journalist named Malcolm Brown.

“In the obituary, I found my next clue – his children’s names Gordan and Wilfred and from looking on Facebook, I found a couple of people with his name in a town in Northern New South Wales.”

Louise then joined a local community page, calling out to the relatives of Robert Gordon Ellice-Flint.

After only a few hours, she found them.

The watch is now being mailed back to the family of Lieutenant Ellice-Flint for them to keep as a family heirloom for years to come.


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