Last November we marked the Armistice Centenary of WW1; it was an intense and emotional time for everyone who helped the borough remember local military personnel who had lost their lives during the conflict. For us it really felt like a culmination of the previous four years’ work which saw staff and volunteers extracting and digitising obituaries and soldier’s images from the local newspapers. With plenty of media presence we helped family members learn more about their fallen ancestors, often seeing their faces for the first time.
It’s important to be reminded though – there isn’t a specific time to remember those who lost their lives; their memories live on in public war memorials, rolls of honour, a photograph on a mantelpiece, a family archive – they’re always here with us in some form or another. And sometimes they are hidden just waiting to be found.
At Castle Leisure centre a few years ago, a soldier’s WW1 medal was handed in at reception. It had been found in the car park – the orange and blue ribbon probably long since detached. Staff working there at the time placed it in the safe and, as no one came to claim it, the medal was forgotten about. The centre staff explained that they receive so much lost property and, understandably, due to its relatively small size, it would have been pushed to the back of the safe-drawer.
During a recent sort-out, a member of staff retrieved the medal and recognising its potentially sentimental value she put a call-out on social media. One response led to another and eventually to Christine North from Lancashire Family History & Heraldry Society who, no stranger to research, took up the leads. That is where we come in! With the service number, rank and name impressed on the rim of the medal the soldier’s details led Christine to one of our blog posts: Rifleman Edmund Kaye.
We had received Edmund Kaye’s archive from his grandson, Bernard, in October 2015; (coincidentally, this collection was one of the ones we chose to go on display during the Armistice last November). Once Christine had made the connection she sent Edmund Kaye’s medal to us for it to be returned to its owner.
We contacted Bernard straightaway – his response was one of amazement and delight. Amazement because the medal had never been in his family’s possession; delight – as now it could complement the collection; Bernard and Julia were adamant that the medal should be preserved here at the archive with the rest of Edmund’s items.
We were happy to invite Bernard and Julia back into the archive to see the medal.
Below are a few words from Bernard:
“In October 2015, we donated some records of my grandfather, (Rifleman Edmund Kaye) to Bury Archives which were included in a small display for Armistice 100 during November 2018.
The records comprised of Edmund’s letters home and various other items relating to his death in action at Ypres.
Unfortunately, missing from the collection was Edmund’s service medal which we knew existed but had no info as to its whereabouts.
To our astonishment, we were contacted on the 21st February by Wendy from Bury Archives about a WW1 war medal which was found on Castle Car Park in Bury some time ago. The medal was handed into reception and eventually was passed on to a member of Lancashire Family History Society who then researched the name on the medal. A google search directed her to the blog that Wendy had written about Edmund Kaye so she contacted Bury Archives and subsequently sent them the medal.
The medal was confirmed to be the one that belonged to my grandfather, Edmund Kaye.
It was an astonishing revelation for the medal to be found and returned to Edmund’s collection in this way. I have to sincerely thank the person who handed the medal in and Wendy and the Bury Archives team for all of their input to completing the collection.
I and my cousin Kevin feel that his story and his memory is now properly recorded and accessible for all in the future.
We are now planning a future visit to Edmund’s war grave at WHITE HOUSE CEMETERY, ST. JEAN-LES-YPRES Location: West-Vlaanderen, Belgium Where Edmund’s grave is located.”
The mystery of how the medal was lost in Castle Car Park remains. However, what’s more important is that it has found its way home and will be preserved for years to come.