ANZAC DAY: Digging up history of medallion

A WAR medallion found buried under 10 centimetres of soil was yesterday reunited with the family of a World War I soldier during Walla’s Anzac Day service.

Little is known about where or which unit William Thomas Stewart fought in during World War I.

His family weren’t even sure why the army had spelt his last name Stewart instead of Stuart, but some light was shed yesterday thanks to a Walla researcher.

Community and family historian Karen Wenke spent four months researching the Digger and managed to hunt down his relatives.

“It was not easy finding a living relative of a World War I soldier,” she said.

“Using multiple sources and finally making a breakthrough on Facebook, I was able to locate family.”

Mrs Wenke said war records revealed the soldier served in World War I between 1916 and 1919.

“Records showed that he was wounded on April 25, 1918, which places him at the second battle of Villers-Bretonneux,” she said.

“He then rejoined the army in 1940 and served until 1952 in World War II.”

Mr Stewart died in Griffith aged 92 in 1987.

The Walla community presented him with a gold watch, chain and medallion after he returned from service in 1919.

The soldier’s two sons, Col and Neville Stuart, accepted the medallion on behalf of the family in front of more than 300 people at Bicentennial Park yesterday.

“Two weeks ago we got a phone call about this remarkable find,” Col Stuart, of Albury, said.

“It’s mind-blowing to think that this has come to light after 90 years buried in the soil.”

“Like many other soldiers, they didn’t like to divulge all the trauma they experienced.”

“We have learnt more today through Karen’s research than what we previously knew of our dear dad.”

Darren Blake, of Ganmain, unearthed the heirloom by chance with his metal detector last year.

He was chasing family history and was exploring Morgan’s Lookout when he thought he had stumbled on a gold sovereign.

“I cleaned it up and knew it was something much more special,” he said.

“I knew I had to do everything in my power to return the medallion to the owner’s family.”

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