The Mystery of Who Signed this Oceania 10 Shillings JIM Short Snorter - Part I

Good buddy of mine showed me this interesting little piece of 10 Shillings Japanese Invasion Money (JIM), issued in 1942, asking if I can help identify the history and origin; and if possible to grade it.

Take a look :

Oceania 10 Shillings JIM Short Snorter
Fig 1 : A short snorter of JIM 10 Shillings

This piece has some writings on it and they are commonly referred to as "short snorters". To quote Michael Marotta's definition from "The Numismatist" - "Short Snorters are pieces of paper money circulating during the war and/or in a combat zone signed by friends or comrades." They are in essence an improvised scrap book of sorts during World War II. These artefacts usually commemorates events, location, people, dates etc.

World War II soldiers will carry these with them wherever they go, therefore the condition of the pieces are very low grade. They've been thru the war zone and in many different climates and may have been soaked in sea water. Sometime multiple pieces are taped together and you can find tape marks on these pieces too. Therefore you should be very suspicious if you come across any short snorter in UNC condition !!!

The writing on these notes are usually done with fountain pen or pencil. Please keep in mind that ball point pens do not exists until after World War II ! So this piece does fit the description.

The first clue - "Souvenir from NG", since this is suppose to be in circulation in Oceania region, NG most probably stands for New Guinea. This is consistent with World War II history, the Australian Army was involved in several successful campaigns against the Japanese forces defending New Guinea in Operation Cartwheel, mid 1943 led by General Blamey.

Fig : "Souvenir from NG" - NG stands for New Guinea?

The next clue - QX54229, this is the service number of the soldier. Similarly "93944" is also a service number. The names written below these numbers are hardly legible. So we only have the service numbers to go by. Since this note was issued in Oceania, so it will be highly likely the service men / women will be from Australia. Working on this tip - we did a quick check with the National Archives of Australia using the 2 service numbers and the names of the 2 persons who signed it and here's what we got :

Fig 3 : Two service numbers of  the military personnel was clearly written on it, which the names are hardly legible.

The handwritten name of the top left read "F Sgt Weakley B."; F. Sgt being "Flight Sergeant". The one on the right read "Weakley BC". We now have their full names from the official records that matches their service numbers! Bingo!

The official records reveal that both Betty and Bernard Weakley were born in the same town of Muttaburra in Queensland, Australia in the 1920s. Both of them did enlist during the war, Betty served as Flight Sergeant. She was just over 19 years old when she enlisted.

Bernard was in the army, enlisted 2 years after Betty, also 19 years of age at that time and most likely sent to New Guinea sometime in mid 1943. Further checks also reveal that Bernard served in the Cryptography / Cipher unit of the Australian Army at that time, he was probably a code breaker !

Furthermore, we believe that Betty is the elder of the 2 siblings, and Charles Weakley may be their father. Checks on their home town hospital records reveal that the Charles also hail from Muttaburra.

Too bad there are no photos of these 2 servicemen I was tracking down. Sadly Bernard passed away in 1988 at the age of 64. There are no records of Betty's passing, if she is still alive, she'd be 94 years old now.

Fig 4 : Gavestone - Sgt. Bernard Charles Weakley QX54229. 

I would like to meet her and show her this piece and ask her if she remember signing it ! I have tried looking up her name on phone directories but to no avail.

So if you happen to be a relative of Betty or Bernard's, give us a call at +60 12 318 3042. We would love to hear from you and their story of how they served in WWII.

To conclude, these 2 persons who signed it actually do exist, the fountain pen writing checks out, Bernard being in NG is highly likely and him picking up a JIM piece then signing it with Betty when he was with her is entirely plausible. Which makes this piece of short snorter quite genuine!

Mystery solved.

Now this is what collecting is all about - learning about the people, the story and part of a history at a time when the world was upside down; a very satisfying experience indeed. There are moments that I wonder where were they and what were both of them talking about when they met and signed this piece. Many questions, many thoughts ..... no answers yet.

I hope this story doesn't just end here. I hope that some one who has read this and know any of the Weakleys in Australia will contact us and share the full story.

Until then ..... Happy Collecting!

P.S. I have just sent  a request to the National Archives Australia to obtain the photos of Betty and Bernard. Let's hope something comes back!