NOEL EDWARD CANN – Mystery medals found in Rarotonga.

401244 – NOEL EDWARD CANN    

A box containing a Registered Nursing (RN) Badge engraved 22247  N.E. Cann  1956 together with five WW2 medals, a poppy, copies of NZ Defence medal issue documents, and a handwritten list of the medals, were found at the Manea Heights Chalets, Rarotonga in 2010.  Recognising the medals obviously belonged to a New Zealander, the English brown leather covered silverware box that contained the medals and badge were passed by the finder to Tim Arnold, a New Zealander and Rarotonga based lawyer after attempts to locate an owner had failed.  Tim subsequently passed the medals to MRNZ to research.

The five un-named medals were:

  • 1939/45 Star, Italy Star, Defence Medal, War Medal 1939/45, NZ War Service Medal, 1839/45


Cann6Noel Edward CANN had originated from Taranaki.  Noel had had an extensive post-war career becoming a Registered Nurse (Patea) and later had long service with both the St John Ambulance and NZ Fire Service.  A check of electoral rolls revealed a direct descendant still in the area and a few phone calls later led me to the fact that Noel’s son, Warwick James Cann, had lived in the area but had moved “east” to an unknown location. 

With electoral roll access limited to the 1980s, I decided upon an area search of the white pages planning to start with the Waikato and progress “east” to the Bay of Plenty to hopefully find a connection to Warwick.  I struck it lucky with my first Cann family located in Hamilton – the person I had called happened to be Warwick’s daughter-in-law Linda who told me Warwick and his wife had returned to live in rural Taranaki.

After contacting Warwick with the news of the find, the mystery of the ownership of the Rarotonga medals quickly deepened.  Warwick told me his mother had given him his father’s medals and were quite safe, under glass and hanging on the wall of his home!  Further, Warwick’s father had served in the RNZAF in the Pacific, not the Army – the medals found in Rarotonga had included the Italy Star but no Pacific Star.

It was interesting to note the medals themselves were oddly presented – very loosely sewn together onto a piece of hemming tape (no suspender brooch) and grouped in an overlapped and haphazard fashion – clearly by someone who new little of medal mounting or how to wear them.  This also begged the question of whether the medals had been lost or stolen, were owned by a local person or tourist traveller, or owned by someone who had purchased/found the box and its contents – possibly by someone who was not entitled to them? 

Warwick’s enquiries of his family concluded that none had been to Rarotonga or recognised the box and its contents as belonging to the Cann family.  I explored one other Cann family possibility – Noel Cann’s brother, 35501 Pte. Maxwell Ian Cann, had served in Italy and Africa during WW2 however his medals were safely in the custody of his family.  Additional enquiries made to the accommodation owner and Rarotonga RSA have not provided any further leads – so, the mystery of who the owner of the box was and how it arrived in the Manea Heights Chalets  remains.


How Noel Cann’s RN badge finished up in the box with the medals, poppy and medal issue documents is a question which is unlikely to ever be answered, however Warwick is more than delighted to have his father’s RN badge to add to his father’s military memorabilia. 

My grateful thanks to Tim Arnold for contacting MRNZ – the case remains open should an owner or further research information be forth coming in the future.

The reunited medal tally is now 31.


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