Private R.S.G. Smith's WWI British Victory medal.
Private R.S.G. Smith's WWI British Victory medal.

Cop solves 100-year war medal mystery

A war medal lost at a Melbourne beach almost 100 years ago has been reunited with the family of a World War I digger just in time for Anzac Day.

Private R.S.G. Smith lost his WWI British Victory medal at Chelsea beach in 1925 and passed away on April 23, 1963 without ever getting it back.

The medal was found about 10km away at Beaumaris beach in 1980, but it's rightful owner remained a mystery until it was recently passed to Lilydale police Sergeant Vaughan Atherton.

The man who found the medal 40 years ago was married at the time but later passed away, and his wife later remarried.

Both she and her partner are members of the local Upwey Belgrave RSL Sub Branch, where Sergeant Atherton is also a member after serving as an Army Reservist for nine years.

Sergeant Atherton tracked Private Smith's details through the National Archives of Australia and found Robert Stanley Gordon Smith was born in Fitzroy in 1891.

 

The war medal belonging to Private R.S.G. Smith. Picture: Victoria Police
The war medal belonging to Private R.S.G. Smith. Picture: Victoria Police

 

A statutory declaration by Private R.S.G. Smith stating he lost his World War I medals at Chelsea beach in 1925. Picture: Victoria Police
A statutory declaration by Private R.S.G. Smith stating he lost his World War I medals at Chelsea beach in 1925. Picture: Victoria Police

 

He enlisted at Broadmeadows on the August 7, 1915 and formed part of the 13th Reinforcements, 5th Battalion of the Australian Imperial Force and served in France where he was wounded in action twice.

He returned to Australia after the war, where he met and married Ada Grace Nicholl.

He is buried at the Coburg cemetery in Melbourne's north.

In his service record, Sergeant Atherton discovered a statutory declaration where he requested to replace his 'badge' which he lost at Chelsea beach in 1925.

 

Lilydale Sergeant Vaughan Atherton in the Army Reserves.
Lilydale Sergeant Vaughan Atherton in the Army Reserves.

 

Sergeant Vaughan Atherton reuniting another family with World War II medals more than 50 years after they were stolen during a burglary.
Sergeant Vaughan Atherton reuniting another family with World War II medals more than 50 years after they were stolen during a burglary.

 

Sergeant Atherton recently located two living descendants of the family line and reunited the war medal with its rightful family.

Private Smith's nephew Alan Norster said he was delighted to receive the call.

"I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to have this medal put on display at Upwey- Belgrave RSL museum," he said.

"I am sure Private Smith's medal will be treasured by all present and future RSL members".

It's not the first time Sergeant Atherton has tracked down the family of lost war medals.

 

World War I medals lost at Chelsea beach in 1925 have been reunited with the family of Private R.S.G. Smith almost 100 years later. Picture: Victoria Police
World War I medals lost at Chelsea beach in 1925 have been reunited with the family of Private R.S.G. Smith almost 100 years later. Picture: Victoria Police

 

In October last year he tracked down the sister of Private Douglas Downs, whose service medals were stolen during a burglary at his West Footscray home in 1969.

"To be able to return these treasured items always brings me pleasure," he said.

"They are irreplaceable and are normally handed down through families as a reminder of the sacrifices and service made by our earlier generations.

"I am glad that I have been successful on this occasion in reuniting the medal with the recipient's relatives".

The successful reunion comes just in time for Anzac Day on Sunday to commemorate the 106th anniversary of the 1915 Gallipoli landing.

jack.paynter@news.com.au

Originally published as Cop solves 100-year war medal mystery



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