Medalling with the past
A long time ago I discovered a group of war medals named to a man in an English regiment. I wondered then and there, who would discard such an heirloom and vowed to do the man justice. Little did I know at the time, the story I would eventually discover. Taking them home I spent the first few days restoring them to their original condition by removing the oxidisation and green tarnish from their surface. I have often debated with people about this process and agree, that in most cases the piece should remain as history has made it. In this case though, I just felt the condition reflected the care about this man’s life.
Once refurbished, I began the slow process of researching his life. Using geological sites and databases, I started to form a picture. He was born in the early 1920s and orphaned at an early age, a result of the flu epidemic. It seems he has little record about his life up until his early teens, when he turned to crime and misconduct, eventually being brought to justice before an official who gave him an opportunity. Become a ward of the state and join the ranks of the military as a drummer. In 1938, at the reported age of 14, he joined a regiment and became a junior soldier, under the care of the defence department. Then, in 1939 war was declared. Somehow he ended up in Africa and was with his regiment when the Germans over ran the position and he was taken prisoner. It seems his young age and his mischievous delinquency helped him devise many escape attempts, each being thwarted or later apprehending him not far from the camp. He spent a good deal of his time in confinement but soon devised another attempt to continue the cycle. After 18 months, he finally managed to slip out from a work party into a ditch and waited until nightfall before making his way across Europe to allied lines. We know nothing of his six weeks of adventure between escape and salvation, but he is recorded as joining the regiment he served with again until the end of the war His medals as I had them were issued to him in 1952 and history shows he was killed in early 1960 in an auto accident. With no family or next of kin, his medals must have passed from hand to hand until finally winding up in my possession. Did anyone else discover his story? Was his life so insignificant that no one cared to know? I guess it will not be known, but at least now his story has been revived and his memory will live on again, just like his medals.