Detectorists will go to extraordinary lengths to return items they have found to the original owners or their families. This isn’t always easy and often involves diligence, detective work worthy of a Sherlock, and a great deal of luck. The story I am about to unfold has all of those ingredients plus a ‘twist’ that makes it just a little different.
Medal with Northern Ireland Clasp
The Northern Ireland Campaign medal -sometimes referred to as the General Service Medal [GSM] was found in Northumberland by detectorist Jimmy Morse. Every fine detecting story seems to involve a ‘walking back to the car’ phrase and this is no exception.
Jimmy had been detecting for about four hours in a paddock he had searched many times before and was finding the usual junk. He decided to call it a day. Then, “I found something about 4” down that turned out to be a black and encrusted medal”, he told me.
The medal was nestling with other personal items, and an attempt had been made to burn them. Jimmy was intrigued to know how they had ended up in the corner of a Northumbrian field. “After cleaning, a name and number could be seen on the side. I posted the details on a Facebook (FB) detecting site, in the hope of finding the rightful owner as keeping it was never an option.” Picture shows Jimmy Morse.
Power of the Internet
Jason Massey saw the medal on the FB site. People were asking the price and offering to buy. Of course, Jimmy wouldn’t have any of that. His intention was to find the original owner.
Jason, an ex-member of the forces, offered his help, asked for the name and number on the medal and worked out that it was presented in 1966. This information was then posted on a Northern Ireland veterans group site.
Incredibly, and after only 12 minutes, a guy saying that he was the owner had replied. Checks were made and the identity confirmed. That owner was Steve Carter who had no idea how his medal had made its way to Northumberland.
Jason, a veteran of the First Battalion Light Infantry said that he was “chuffed” to help in retuning the item to its rightful owner.
Stick with it dear reader. The plot thickens. There are more twists and turns in this tale as there are roundabouts in Milton Keynes.
When he was first informed that a medal with his name had been posted on the Northern Ireland FB page, Steve said that it couldn’t be his, as it was “in the spare room” with others. His wife checked anyway, thinking they might have been burgled, but found that the medals were all present and correct.
However, she reminded him that the original GSM (awarded for Steve’s first Northern Ireland tour, Londonderry 1974) had ‘gone missing’ in the late 70s and that he used to borrow hers when he needed to wear medals! Steve had eventually applied for a replacement and over the decades had not just put the incident to the back of his mind; he had ‘wiped it from his memory completely.’
At the time of the find – about five years ago – Steve was serving as a Senior Military Liaison Officer in Afghanistan.
Given that the medal was found along with some horse bits, a regimental cap badge and collar badge, Steve surmised that the medal was ‘lifted’ by a serving soldier who relocated to the Morpeth area. At some stage, when having a clear out instead of just putting the medal in an envelope and sending it anonymously back to the regiment or, to the Home Headquarters in Cardiff where, it would eventually have been returned to Steve, he chose to dispose of it by fire.
Steve is grateful to Jimmy Morse for having the integrity of character to take the time locating the original owner and for insisting upon returning the medal at no cost. Thanks also go to Jason Massey who put the photograph up on the NI FB Page and to Arthur Tanney who volunteered to provide a new medal ribbon, gratis.
A version of this story was published in The Searcher magazine, February 2015