HENRY GEORGE DICKIN – WW1 medals & ‘Death Penny’ returned to NZ by retired funeral director of closed Remuera funeral home.

48467 PTE. Henry George DICKIN – 3rd Auckland Infantry Battalion, 26 Reinf, NZEF   

In May this year I was handed a package of medals from Graeme R. of Christchurch who had been given the package by a colleague whilst attending a business meeting in Australia in 2012.  Unsure of how to find the owner of the contents, Graeme had learned of the work of Medals Reunited New Zealand and passed them to me to hopefully find a descendant. 

The package contained the WW1 British War Medal, Victory Medal, and boxed Memorial Plaque (also known as a ‘Death Penny’ or ‘Death Plaque’) complete with letter from King George V, awarded to 48467 Private Henry George Dickin, 3rd Auckland Infantry Battalion, 26th Reinforcements.  Also enclosed was a hand written letter addressed to Graeme R. penned in 2012 by Lindsay L. of Victoria, the custodian of the medals, stating that he believed the medals should rightly be “returned to the land of the long white cloud” in the hope that the medals might be reunited with Pte. Dickin’s family – if any could be found.  

Lindsay L had been a New Zealand funeral director who subsequently retired and settled in Victoria.  Prior to his retirement he had been a member of staff at the funeral home of WH Tongue & Sons of Mt Eden in Auckland.  Lindsay stated in his letter the medals had been discovered behind the company safe when the business and premises at No 1, Mt Eden Road, Auckland had been sold in 1996. 

My initial research showed that Pte. Dickin had been an employee of the Bank of New Zealand branch in Kaitaia – the far north of New Zealand, at the time of his enlistment in 1917.  He was posted to E Company, 26th Reinforcements of the Auckland Infantry Regiment and sailed for Egypt aboard HMNZT 86 “Managanui” on 17 June 1917 where he would be prepared for battle before being sent to the front – the bloodbaths that would become the household names of Passchendaele and Ypres. 

Pte. Henry Dickin’s war was to be brief and costly.  He was killed in action during the Ypres offensive on 20 November 1917 – he was 24 years of age.  Pte. Dickin’s war medals and memorial plaque were received in due course by Henry’s parents, Herbert and Margaret, retired farmers of north Auckland.  Herbert Dickin took the news particularly hard and passed away just three months after learning of his only son’s death. 

After her husband’s death, Henry’s mother went to live with her two spinster sisters-in-law, and the three ladies remained living together for the rest of their lives.  Henry’s mother Margaret Ann Dickin was the first to pass away in 1958, and the last sister-in- law died in 1985. 

My problem now was that I had come to the end of Herbert and Margaret Dickin’s lineage since there were no other children; Henry George Dickin was an only child, ergo the male Dickin line had died out – so who could I give the medals to ? 

I started by looking into Herbert Dickin’s family  and their English origins.  I soon found an immigration record that confirmed that Herbert had an older brother Edward, who had also emigrated to New Zealand.  By a process of elimination in searching the birth, marriage and death records, and the electoral rolls, I stumbled onto an Ancestry post from Anna A. who turned out to be a distant Dickin relative and had been researching the parents of Henry Dickin.  One email to Anna quickly confirmed that Henry Dickin in fact had a great-niece – Michelle J. was the sole living Dickin descendant of Herbert Dickin’s brother Edward.   With Anna’s help I soon made contact with Michelle to arrange for her to receive her great-uncle’s medals. 

It seemed appropriate to arrange the hand-over of the medals for October 16 as this date  coincidentally was the 100th anniversary of the departure from Auckland in 1914 of some 8000 soldiers (including the Auckland Infantry Battalion) who sailed into New Zealand’s First World War history.  TVNZ covered the occasion which was all the more moving as Michelle had no idea that Henry Dickin or his family even existed, much less was connected directly to her family. 

An emotional and grateful Michelle J. received the her great-uncle’s medals in the Auckland Museum’s Hall of Memories, signalling the end of another successful medals return and fulfilling what transpired to be one of Lindsay L’s last wishes – that of having the medals “returned to the land of the long white cloud, and Pte. Dickin’s family” – case closed.  Sadly, Lindsay L. did not survive to witness this happy reunion – he passed away in 2013. 

The reuniting of these Pte Dickin’s medal with a descendant became Medals Reunited New Zealand’s FIRST OFFICIAL return of medals since formally announcing our 100% not-for-profit and FREE service.

My thanks to Graeme R. for providing the medals and background.  I am also indebted to Anna A. for her assistance in providing the Dickin family history and links to Michelle.  I am also grateful to Max and Nick from TVNZ for their coverage of the hand-over ceremony to Michelle at the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

Pte Henry Dickin's WW1 medals come home ...

Pte. Henry Dickin’s WW1 medals come home …

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