ALBERT HENRY S. – Missing family medals recovered from TradeMe – thanks MRNZ !

52016 / 285301 / 601951 – ALBERT HENRY S.    

This is a story of circumstances I am often privy to when discussing with families or descendants the circumstances that has led to missing or lost medals.  Since the outcome of this particular case involves the need to maintain family privacy I am bound to keep the identities of those involved confidential.

Last month I was routinely running through various medals related websites (as I do regularly) checking for any of the lost medals posted on the MRNZ website that families are searching for.

One particular mixed group of medals and ephemera on Trademe caught my eye because the medal and ephemera mix, the unusual spelling of the surname, and the fact they were a collection which had belonged to both father and son.  As I watched the Trademe listing through its auction term I was a little surprised when they did not sell as the medals themselves comprised a reasonably desirable set of WW1, WW2 and New Zealand Territorial service medals. Suthon Medals - Cropped for Post

Out of curiosity I briefly researched the WW1 & WW2 medal recipient’s service and discovered that the father (now deceased) had served in both the British and New Zealand Army as a regular and territorial soldier.  These medals were accompanied by a medal awarded to his son for long service in the NZ Prison Service together with a selection of associated badges and militaria.

My research of the father’s military records showed that 52016 Pte. Albert Henry S. had been born about 1900 in Wellington, County Shropshire, England.  He had enlisted into the Cheshire Regiment prior to WW1 and later as 28522 Pte. S. had served with the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry (KSLI) in France.  After the war Pte. S. had continued to serve on as 285301 / 601951 Spr. (Sapper) S. in the Royal Engineers (RE).  For his WW1 service Pte. S. had been awarded the British War Medal 1914-18 and the Victory Medal. 

Albert Henry S. emigrated from the UK to New Zealand in the 1920s and by 1927 had firmly established himself in the Taranaki district, marrying Dorothy P. the same year.  Albert worked variously as an electrician on his arrival from England and later as a storeman and salesman until he retired.  With the outbreak of WW2 looming, Albert enlisted once again, this time for part-time service in the NZ Army joining the ranks of the local army reserve unit – the Taranaki Regiment.  For his wartime service with the Taranaki Regiment, Pte. S. was awarded the 1939-45 War Medal & the NZ War Service Medal.  In addition he was later awarded the NZ Army’s Efficiency Medal (EM) which required a minimum qualifying period of 12 years continuous and efficient service.  Albert Henry S. died in Taranaki in 1963.

Having confirmed the continuity of Albert’s family in Taranaki, I then checked the telephone White Pages which showed the family name was still listed in the Taranaki region.

Being a somewhat unusual occurrence for a family’s collection of their war medals and ephemera to appear on  Trade-me, my suspicion was aroused particularly when they did not sell.  Acting in the best interests of the family, I decided to make contact to confirm theirs had been a conscious decision to sell these items and that the medals had not been acquired as the result of some other more sinister circumstances such as a burglary or theft.  Medals taken during burglaries or otherwise stolen are often not reported and are often either sold to unknowing dealers/collectors, or drip fed on to sites like Trade-me, eBay etc.  In particular I wanted to establish whether:

  1. the family had placed the medals on Trade-me for sale? – and if not, had
  2. the medals been lost or stolen? and if not, was
  3. the family aware their medals were being auctioned on the internet?

I rang the first family – no reply; I rang a second and after a brief discussion learned the medals were suspected of having been lost or disposed of quite some time ago.  It was also apparent from our discussion that if the medals had been disposed of, that no agreement between family members had ever been reached or discussed to do this.  The family I spoke with in fact had been resigned for some time that the medals had probably been lost to their family permanently. 

Needless to say when I made contact the family were in the first instance most surprised to hear from me, and secondly, flabbergasted to learn their family’s war medals had appeared on Trade-me ! 

Long story short – fortunately the first auction of their medals had expired without any bids being made.  Great I thought – a second chance for the family should they be interested, but were they since the only chance they had to retrieve them was to bid at least until the auction reserve was met (which could prove costly).  Yes, they were interested and so I suggested a strategy for them to follow.  I then contacted the trader and asked if the items could be re-listed.

Money aside, having the opportunity to recover lost or missing family medals under any circumstances is a relatively rare occurrence, particularly WW1 medals because of the time elapsed since their date of issue (c1921-22), and the fact they are becoming more and more desirable to collectors since they are named and therefore can be researched.  In addition, the WW1 commemorations occurring worldwide over the next four years has  accelerated the interest of medal collectors and caused the prices to escalate.  WW2 medals are slightly less desirable since all medals were issued un-named and so if not privately engraved or accompanied by any other attribution (papers, photos etc) there can be no guarantee medals found or auctioned are the originals as awarded to a particular veteran – they could have belonged to anyone (or even be copies!)

I watched the next Trade-me auction with more than a passing interest.  No bidders – until the 11th hour prior to closure; the Reserve price was finally met and the auction closed.  I called the family shortly after the auction closed and am very pleased to report they had been the only bidders this time and were successful in recovering the collection.  A week on and a call to me from a very grateful family confirmed that they were once again in possession of the family medals – a great outcome. 

My thanks to bm2.

The reunited medal tally is now 83.

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