Did any of your family ancestors serve in The Great War of 1914-1918?
Or perhaps your Great-great Grandfather ran off to fight the Boers in South Africa for the British Empire at the turn of the century??
Did your father answer the call to arms – to fight against foreign oppression in World War Two?
Or perhaps your Grand-mother was a nurse and met your Grand-father whilst he recuperated in a military hospital???
If you have answered “Yes” to any of the above questions and your ancestor served in any of the Armed Services, then without a doubt – they were awarded certain campaign medals. Whether they served in the Army/ Navy or Air Force, generally the medals were the same. For example, when you look at a First World War Victory medal which is a gold medal issued to British Commonwealth Troops, an army medal is no different to a navy medal. The Victory Medal is usually paired up with the British War medal which – from a colour point of view, is a silver medal that may have dulled to a pewter type colour. It is only when you look at awards for particular gallantry or special recognition; such as a military medal for the army or a Distinguished Flying Cross for the Air Force, do things start to get confusing. To the novice researcher with minimal knowledge in military history…..which includes many persons who are merely trying to complete their family tree – this can all seem way too much.
And like many families endeavouring to put together their family history, sometimes you find that either one….. or ALL of their ancestor’s War Medals are missing. I often see for sale on the open market – a Victory Medal belonging to a digger, but the British War Medal is missing, or vice versa.
Depending on where your family member served; the date on which they actually enlisted and when they shipped out, a number of medals may have been awarded.
Unless your family has been diligent and kept these items together in the one box, chances are….medals have become lost or the medal group seperated over the years. After all, not everybody has military medal display cases taking up space in the loungeroom, in which to store their family treasures.
The reasons WHY these medals have gone missing are many and varied. After The Great War of 1914-1918 (World War 1) considering the carnage and massive loss of life, it was not uncommon for certain family members to take offence at the Government’s offer of a War Medal & Death Plaque (colloquially known as a “Dead Man’s Penny”) to families that had lost a loved one.
Alternatively, men who were scarred by battle, limbless or suffering mental injury (shell shock and/or victims of gassing) placed little value on their Medals and refused to participate in R.S.L Services or Veteran processions such as the ‘Anzac Day’ marches commemorated in Australia. Subsequently – their medals were discarded or shoved into a dark corner of the house and long forgotten……..the old soldier eventually dies……his peers pass on and the house is sold. A generation later, the medals are found during a renovation by the new house owner who has no idea of the whereabouts of a next-of-kin. So subsequently these Medals do not find their way back to the recipient’s family.
It is also common for a family with a number of children or grandchildren, to break up a Medal set and give one to each child. As the generations move on, the individual medals are passed on again and again……as a result…….the set is seperated forever and rarely do the medals become re-united again. If one medal is lost or hocked down at the local pawn shop, then the chances of the set becoming complete once again are lost.
If the family researcher is extremely lucky, the medals may find their way onto the commercial market and an act of God will assist you to re-purchase the missing medals, as long as you are looking at the right place – at the right time. Or a kind heart will track them down and return the medals to their rightful ancestor.
Unless you can afford to risk your family heritage – by leaving it to extreme luck or a random act of kindness, it is only by enlisting the help of search engines such as Medals Gone Missing that will reunite these missing treasures with their rightful owners. So if you have that odd U.S Military Medal or British Military Medal floating around the house that does not belong to your family, chances are……somebody is out there – looking for it.