Chance find links soldiers separated by time and location

Albury’s Phil Bullivant knows a lot about Jack James Hooper. 

He know he was born in Sydney on August 2, 1920. 

He knows the former soldier enlisted to serve in the army in Larrakeyah, Northern Territory, and was stationed in Wodonga.

But there’s one thing the Albury man doesn’t know, and that’s where Mr Hooper or his family are now.

Two weeks ago, Mr Bullivant – a former private in the Australian infantry – had never heard of James Jack Hooper.

But a chance discovery last Thursday has linked the two men and started Mr Bullivant on a quest to find the fellow soldier.

A keen metal detector, Mr Bullivant and friend Neil Coulston found a pair of WWII era dog tags while exploring in Wodonga. 

“I’m an avid metal detector, I do it every day when I can get some hours in,” he said.

“We were working a site in Wodonga where military personnel were stationed in the war and we’d found a lot of military buttons and coins.” 

Among the dirt and discarded coins, Mr Bullivant found something truly priceless – WWII era dog tags inscribed with the name James Jack Hooper. 

“I was elated,” he said.

“As an ex-soldier I know the significance of dog tags, I was very, very chuffed to find them and wanted to start a process to track the owner down. 

“Dog tags are one of the most important parts of a soldier’s kit.

“When you go into combat if you’re wounded or killed in battle, it’s the first thing people look for as identification, it’s always around your neck, it’s very significant.”

After searching records he discovered that if Mr Hooper was still alive today, he would be 97.

Mr Bullivant said he was able to locate Mr Hooper’s service file, but unable to locate any current information about the man who he believes was stationed at Wodonga.

“He may have descendants somewhere so I wanted to get the process rolling,” he said. “Hopefully it triggers something and we can locate him or his descendants and return the tags.”