One such example was identifying an ‘unknown’ Australian prisoner of war. Released from a Japanese POW camp in Java in 1945, he had been photographed shortly after his liberation wearing a battered slouch hat and playing a piano accordion. It was an engaging image, and historians at the Australian War Memorial were keen to identify the soldier, whom they dubbed ‘The Accordion Man’. With very little to go on, they had no success, until they made an appeal for help through the media. The challenge was something that Lynette and her long-time research colleague, Di Elliott, could not resist. They rose to the occasion and, within one hour, had solved the mystery.
Larrikin’s Tale finally Told
HE’S a faded face from Australia’s military past, dubbed the Accordion Man, and for many years he has been without a name.
However, when military historian Lynette Silver and fellow researcher Di Elliott took an interest in his identity following an appeal by the Australian War Memorial last month, it didn’t take them long to track it down.
They believe this man, photographed in a Japanese-run prisoner-of-war camp during World War II, is Tasmanian infantryman Harold Clyde Conley.
His story is that of a rogue soldier who was keen to serve his country in fact, possibly faking his way into the military but whose love of a drink and tendency to go absent without leave littered his service history.
But with the luck of the devil, he also survived more than three years in a POW camp in Java, Indonesia where this photo was taken in September 1945.
Mrs Silver, of Wahroonga, and Mrs Elliott began their investigation into the identity of the soldier in September after the Australian War Memorial made a public appeal to help identify the Digger.
Mrs Silver said they tracked down the Accordion Man’s identity with the help of an old newspaper clipping chronicling Conley’s return to Hobart. A photograph showed him to be the same man in the POW photo.
They also discovered he had lied about his age on enlistment, claiming he was 39 because the cut-off age was 40.
Conley was in fact 43 years old.