Those who have heard of the Niland family from the United States, were no doubt moved by the loss of life sustained by this group of brothers during the Second World War. If you have not heard of the NILAND brothers, then perhaps you would be more familiar with the feature film “Saving Private Ryan” which was loosely based on their story. Another tragic story of ‘brothers at arms’ which deserves to be told is that of the five SULLIVAN brothers, lost when the American cruiser U.S.S. Juneau was sunk.
It is a sad fact that Australians know more about the fate of these American families than they do of their fellow Australians. Unfortunately, we have our own share of tragic family histories. Another story which appears on the Medals Gone Missing website is that of the MANUSU brothers from Bowraville in New South Wales. This name should be remembered, whenever Australians speak about the Kokoda Trail and the fighting which took place on the track at Eora Creek.
However, by reading this article, you may be able to assist one family of British ancestry in reuniting two sets of missing war service medals which share a similar sadness to those mentioned above.
IMAGE RIGHT: A family memorial to three brothers of the BAILEY family lost during the Great War. Siblings Cyril BAILEY, Rowland BAILEY and Percy BAILEY all died in service of their country on the Somme during World War One. Can you help to find their missing war medals?
The BAILEY family of Great Britain would lose three sons during the First World War. Cyril Edward BAILEY, the youngest – would lose his life on the 26th September 1915 aged just 19 years. His eldest brother, Lance Corporal Rowland George BAILEY was killed in action seven months later on the 30th April 1916, aged 24. They had a third brother, Lance Corporal Percy Thomas BAILEY who would share their fate on the 3rd September, 1916. He was aged 22. These three young Britons were the sons of Rowland and Emma Matilda Bailey, of Cowgate Farm, Hawkinge, Folkestone. And their family would never be the same again.
With the centenary of the Great War drawing near, their great nephew, Ian Friar often wonders how Emma, his Great Grandmother, must have felt when she saw a telegram boy at the gate. Any parent who has lost a child can answer that question for him.
In light of the sacrifice made by his great uncles, this member of the BAILEY family is now on a quest to recover a vital piece of his ancestry. Some of the war medals of ‘two’ of his three great uncles have become mixed up and the parts of the medal trio are now missing. They are just a few, of hundreds of thousands of war medals which have become lost to the their respective family and we are hoping to locate in time for 2014.
Some time in the past, two of the World War One medal trios have become mixed up. Family historian Ian states, “I suspect because so few people realise that the names are engraved around the edges of the medals”. In referring to his great grand parents, he said “They were probably distributed amongst the remaining 3 brothers by handing out one of each medal to each remaining brother”. This was a common occurrence amongst families who had lost a sibling as a token of remembrance. Of course, when these medals are passed ‘singly’ down the generations and for various reasons, leave the family altogether … the medal group becomes split up or ‘broken’ forever. (Please CLICK HERE to read why war medals become missing)
Thankfully, one complete group awarded to Lance Corporal Percy Thomas BAILEY, is in the care of a family member alongside the Memorial Plaque which commemorates his sacrifice. He served and died as part of The Buffs (East Kent Regiment). According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) records, Percy is interred within the Serre Road Cemetery No. 2, France and with these medals and Memorial Plaque, his family have a tangible reminder of his service. However, of the other two medal sets – three medals are missing and one mixed set of war medals is in the care of Ian’s cousin.
IMAGE RIGHT:1915-1915 Star and British War Medal, similar to that awarded to Private Cyril Edward BAILEY. These two war service medals are also missing. If you can help this family to re-unite his medal trio, please contact us at Medals Gone Missing.
After visiting the graves and memorial of the brothers in France, Ian made inquiries within his family for some photographs of two of his two great uncles. Upon opening the frames which contained these original images, we discovered the last letters that these boys had written home to their parents over 90 years ago.
The exact dates that the letters below were written is unknown, however one of the letters is addressed by Private R.G. Bailey. In contrast, at the time of his death Rowland – had been promoted to Lance Corporal. So the letter pre-dates his promotion.
The letters appear below. Transcribed exactly, complete with spelling and grammar as written. The letter of Cyril reads as follows:
Pte C.E. Bailey
57 Portland Road,
Dear Dad and Mother,
Just a line or two to let you know I am quite safe and enjoying myself a treat. Hope you are having a good time. I couldn’t help thinking of you all. How is dear Mother? I do hope she is better. Don’t worry over us three. If you only knew how we are you wouldn’t, I lay. Our chaps down here wanted me to play Banka with them on Xmas night but I thought of the promise we made to dear old dad some time ago so I didn’t play. Don’t worry over us dad we can take of ourselves. Now I think I must close with love to all.
From your loving son
The final letter of Rowland is reproduced below:-
Pte R.G. Bailey,
No 4 Coy, 8 Buffs
C/o Mrs Grevatt,
42 Richmond Road,
My Dear Parents and all
Just a few lines to tell you we got back to camp quite safe at 11.45 and glad to tell you we have gone to Worthing and have got a nice comfortable place. It’s like being at home again. A nice feather bed instead of hard boards and they find us towels, soap, and a flanel and a basin each to wash in, Worthing is a big place nearly as big as Brighton. Now I think this is all this time. So good bye.
From your loving son
Excuse short letter as we are busy now we have got to a fresh place.
Can you help this family to recover and re-unite the missing war medals which were posthumously awarded to their great uncles? The Victory Medal which is embossed with the name:- G/2051 L/Cpl R.G. BAILEY is missing. Rowland was assigned to “D” Company of the 8th Battalion ‘The Buffs’ (East Kent Regiment) at the time of his death.
The 1914-1915 Star and British War Medal awarded to Private Cyril Edward BAILEY and stamped:- G/4965 Pte C.E. BAILEY, The Buffs (East Kent Regiment). He too was serving with “D” Coy of the 8th Battalion when he lost his life.
If you have these missing war service medals in your collection, or have knowledge of their whereabouts – please contact Medals Gone Missing Administrator. Alternatively, you can contact Ian Friar at Medal Masters in Bundaburg, Queensland.