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Medal Set Re-United After 58 Years - James McGRATH

evawithmedals_400PICTURED LEFT: Eva COLE holding the 1939-45 Star, Pacific Medal and 1939-45 War Medal that she has now re-united with the Australian Service Medal. The medals were awarded to her brother Jim McGRATH who was killed in action in Singapore in 1942. Seperated for over 58 years, her brother's service medals will now be mounted together as a 'set' so that they will never be parted again.

Eva COLE from Katoomba has cherished the memory of her big brother James (Jim) ever since she was a little girl. She can still remember that day in the small country town of The Rock (near Wagga), when her mother Ida - lined Eva up with her siblings and told them all to "Say good-bye to your brothers". On this day, James Francis McGRATH was leaving for training in the AIF as a Signalman with the 8th Division Signals. His younger brother Francis (Frank) had arranged to enlist with the 7th Division Cavalry Regiment. Sadly, this was the last time that she would see her big brother - Jim.

Eva was a member of the Girl Guides at this time and could read Morse Code. So when Jim was to write letters home, he would always sign off with the instruction written in morse "Look after mum" for Eva's eyes only. She always felt a special bond with her brother....so when the war was over and it was finally confirmed in 1945 that Jim had been 'killed in action' three years earlier - their family would never be the same again. It had always been hoped that Jim was alive as a Prisoner of War. And titbits of information that filtered back to Australia offered a small glimmer of hope. But when the 8th Division diggers finally did return to Australia after three long and arduous years in captivity, the fear which they held for their brother's safety was tragically realised.

PICTURED BELOW RIGHT: Signalman James (Jim) McGRATH in camp - believed to be at Ingleburn, N.S.W prior to his deployment to Malaya.

jimmcgrathingleburn_400Around 1951, Eva's mother handed her three war medals which had been posthumously awarded to Signalman NX29918 James Francis McGRATH. These medals; the 1939-1945 Star, the Pacific Star and the 1939-1945 War Medal were the one tangible reminder that she would have of her brother Jim. The fourth medal; the 1939-1945 Australian Service Medal which completed Jim's full entitlement - had been given to Eva's younger sister, Patricia. These medals were deeply valued and would be worn in Jim's honour every Anzac Day.

In February of 2009, Eva generously passed her three medals on to her nephew Gary; so that the set was finally re-united after 58 years. With regards to a predecessor's war medals, Gary holds the belief that the medals belong to the entire family. Whoever holds them is NOT the new owner. We are simply temporary "custodian" of these medals - and they should be guarded as a family heirloom. Just as an item, such as a wedding ring belonging to your grandmother should be cherished - these war medals are priceless. They should remain in the family as a constant reminder of one man's sacrifice and the subsequent impact that 'war' can have on just one family.

The medals had never been "mounted". They will now be professionally swing mounted on their original ribbons - so that they will never become seperated again.

FOOTNOTE: This "seperation" of the medals circa 1951 is not an isolated incident. If you would like to read more, please see the Article of Interest titled "Why War Medals Go Missing" located in the HINTS AND TIPS category.



Water Bottle Carrier Returned After 62 Years - Stanley SEATON

seaton_water_bottle_carrier_400

PICTURED LEFT: Val Bell (nee Seaton) with her father's waterbottle carrier from World War Two.

Lance Sergeant Stanley Wilfred SEATON was born on the 25th of December, 1901 at Birmingham in England. Exactly 107 years later (to the day) his daughter Val was to receive a very special Christmas gift from her son......it was Stanley's waterbottle carrier from World War Two !!!

Stanley Wilfred SEATON enlisted into the Australian Army on the 25th of May, 1940 at Adelaide in South Australia. He was allocated the Service Number of SX3558 and would serve with the 2nd AIF (Australian Imperial Force) for almost six years; discharging on the 11th of February, 1946. Some time during his service, he was issued with a leather waterbottle carrier of the 1903 Pattern - and this item was stamped with his name and serial number. During his lifetime, one can only assume that neither Stanley - nor any of his descendants - would have guessed that this waterbottle carrier could find it's way back into the hands of the Seaton family; over sixty years later.

As the waterbottle carrier showed considerable signs of service wear, Stanley undoubtably utilised this piece of kit for much of his time in the Australian Army during World War Two. He more than likely surrendered this item back to 'Q' Stores in 1946 upon his discharge from the army and it was later 'sold out of service' to a disposal facility. One can only guess where it ended up after that, but in 2002 it was acquired by the Eurobodalla Lighthorse Troop where it was used during Anzac Day parades. Due to it's unique stampings - identifying the carrier to Stanley Seaton, the Troop President (Royden Reid) decided to list the carrier on the Medals Gone Missing website in the off chance that it's owner may be found.

In November of 2008 - Victor Bell (Val's son) of Reservoir in Victoria performed a random 'Google Search' on his grandfather's name and discovered the listing of Stanley's waterbottle carrier on the Medals Gone Missing website. Understanding the signifcance of this find, he knew that the leather carrier must return to his family and decided to give the item to his mother for Christmas. Contact was made with the Lighthorse Re-enactment Troop who were only too pleased to assist in it's return.

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PICTURED RIGHT: Eurobodalla Light Horse Troop President Royden Reid with the waterbottle, prior to forwarding it to the Seaton family.

Royden Reid; who has been collecting Militaria for many years is quoted as saying, "This family is very fortunate to be getting this carrier back. After the war, large quantities of leather equipment were stripped of their brass work for scrap metal and the leather portion either burnt or buried. Alternatively, any leather gear that was sold as Army Surplus - more often than not, ended up in some old shed and simply dried out or rotted over the years. To get something back which was issued to your grandfather during World War Two is extremely rare. It is hard enough finding war medals that have been lost to the family, let alone a piece of kit that your relative carried around in 1942. I am very happy to be able to help these people out and wish that other collectors would do the same".

Victor told Medals Gone Missing - "The reaction from my mother was that she was overcome with emotion.....or should I say.... shock!" And - "She is very happy to have received the water bottle". Victor himself stated to Medals Gone Missing "I appreciate all of the help you are providing in helping us to receive a precious memento of my grandfather's".

So even if a family can account for all of the medals awarded to their forebears, it pays to list their name on the website - in the off chance that some piece of kit comes to light. There is still a great deal of Militaria out there - being bought and sold.....that bears the name or a service number of a veteran. Who knows? It could be your grandfather's waterbottle that pops up next.



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