Fred, Frank or James – the digger with three names

Media release: Wednesday, 5 November 2008

When World War I veteran James Carlin applied to join his local returned servicemen's club in 1965, the army was unable to find any record to verify his war service.

But further investigations showed he had indeed enlisted – twice – under two other names. In July 1915 he joined up as Frederick John (FJ) Holden and sailed for the Middle East. But he was discharged as medically unfit in January 1916 without having seen active duty. He then re-enlisted in November 1916 as Francis Henry Hogan.

Documents in the National Archives reveal this intriguing story and are featured as the Find of the Month for November. This can be seen online and also at the NationalArchives in Canberra.

'One of the interesting things is that, having been discharged as medically unfit in January 1916, he was able to re-enlist in November,' said researcher Mick Fogarty from the National Archives. 'They had established he was the same person because he swore a statutory declaration that his previous enlistment had been under his “professional name”.'

On his way overseas, following the second enlistment, Hogan failed to re-embark in Fremantle but he eventually served in France until he was gassed in August 1918.

'It's interesting to note that, when he missed the ship at Fremantle, all they did was transfer him to another battalion. There isn't any record of disciplinary action at a time when soldiers were often fined several days' pay for being absent without leave for just a few hours.'

In the 1920s he abandoned his stepfather's name, Hogan, and used his mother's maiden name Carlin. He told the Army in 1965 that his name changes were due to 'domestic strife'. But it wasn't only Carlin's name that underwent so many changes. He listed his place of birth variously as Kent in the United Kingdom, Cobar in New South Wales and Batavia River in Queensland.

Adding to the mystery, in 1916 Hogan named his new wife as his next of kin but, during the war, she and two other women, one from London and one from Perth, sought his whereabouts from the Defence Department.

'In June 1965 James Carlin received his certificate of discharge – in the name of Private Francis Henry Hogan,' said Mick Fogarty. 'His story is a good example of what you can learn about people from their service records. They're not just dry military records. In many cases you can learn much about their personal story.'

The National Archives has digitised the service records of 376,000 men and women who served in World War I.  Information on accessing these records can be found on the National Archives website.

Contact information

  • Elizabeth Masters (Media Officer)
    t (02) 6212 3957 m 0427 853 664 e elizabeth.masters@naa.gov.au
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