Part of the small collection of photos that we have as part of my great uncle Jack’s personal effects is this one, showing a young woman:
This is one of the enduring mysteries of Jack’s story. Her name was Joy Gisby, according to my grandfather who has just begun a mission to find out what happened to her, and he says she was Jack’s English girlfriend. There is certainly some evidence that Jack had a girlfriend while he was overseas. His brother Edward wrote the following to Don Smith in December 1944:
“I have, since last hearing from you, had two letters from Jack’s English sweetheart […]. She is very upset over the final news of the boy, but that, I suppose, is only to be expected. It was to me, however, most comforting to know that his all-too-brief span over there was, at least, very happy.” (A01-111-001)
Unfortunately, Edward made no mention of the girl’s name, which makes it rather difficult to find any more information about who she might have been. All I have to go with in the search for information is my grandfather’s memory of a name he first heard a very long time ago and an otherwise unidentified photo. There is a family story that says Jack was engaged to Joy, and that they were to be married on the Saturday after Jack was shot down. As Jack’s letters disappeared decades ago I have no documentary evidence of this, as tragic as the story sounds. And adding to the intrigue are a number of official letters from the Air Force (that I found in A04-071 Jack’s Casualty/Repatriation File from the National Archives of Australia) addressed to Nurse MC Sands, Renwick Hospital, Liverpool Road, Summer Hill – who Jude Findlay suggested may have been a girlfriend of Jack’s in Australia. Nurse Sands was notified along with Edward Purcell of Jack being posted missing so she was obviously close in some way. She could be a red herring, but where I do not have documentary evidence of Joy Gisby’s name, I do for Nurse Sands.
But nothing ventured, nothing gained and all of that, so I’ve been doing some preliminary searching. It turns out that there are a lot of Gisbys around the world. I found a website called The Gisby Saga, a rather well-written account of one particular branch of the family. There’s a Facebook group (The Worldwide Gisby Empire) . And there are thousands of possible hits on Ancestry.com. I’m not really sure where to go from here. Any ideas gratefully received!
© 2011 Adam Purcell