Hat of Vietnam War Australian veteran found in Warrensburg

A hat belonging to Australian veteran Leslie Phillip Connell and found in Warrensburg sits on the desk of University of Central Missouri graduate student Nicholas Montgomery. Montgomery plans to return the hat to Connell’s family.

WARRENSBURG — Across time and across the world, a military slouch hat found in Warrensburg belonging to an Australian veteran is making its way home.

Nicholas Montgomery, a graduate student majoring in history at the University of Central Missouri, was browsing the selection at Those Were the Days in downtown Warrensburg when he found a hat for sale.

“I’m a bit of a collector, I suppose, of interesting hats,” Montgomery said. “I’m not really from around here … when I heard there was a three-story thrift story, I was just dying to go.”

Montgomery found the hat in part of a display in the store and recognized it as being from the Australian military.

After purchasing the hat for $45, Montgomery found the name and serial number of Leslie Phillip Connell of the Australian army.

Montgomery said this is the first time he has found an article of clothing with the full serial number and a still-legible name.

Montgomery asked around a Vietnam War reenactment group he participated in and it was suggested he contact the Australian Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

The DVA assisted in finding Connell’s service record. It was discovered that Connell served in the Vietnam War between 1969 and 1970 with the 131st locating battery of the Australian military.

Montgomery said he wanted to return the hat to Connell but found out that Connell died in 2011.

After contacting the DVA, Montgomery contacted the 131 Locators Association, looking into finding individuals Connell served with as well as his family.

Connell’s sister, Lynne Watson, was found. Watson lives in the island state of Tasmania, south of the Australian mainland.

Having now been in contact, Montgomery said Watson is grateful to soon have her brother’s hat returned.

Montgomery speculated how the hat found its way to Warrensburg.

“My initial theory was that, considering that Americans and Australians served together in Vietnam, that a lot of in-trading went on between the two,” Montgomery said. “My theory is that he most likely traded his hat for some other trinket from a US soldier. Not sure exactly how it ended up in Warrensburg, Missouri, but alas, it’s here.”

Staff Writer Sara Lawson can be reached by emailing sara.lawson@dsjnow.com or by calling (660) 747-8123.

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