WW1 medals returned thanks to online archive

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Technological advances never even dreamed of 100 years ago have made it possible to return World War 1 medals lost in 1964 to a soldier’s family in Gore.

The Mataura Museum’s online archive, eHive, played an intricate part in returning Angus Cameron’s medals to his descendants.

June Cameron, of Gore, said the family did not know about the medals awarded to Mr Cameron, who was her late husband Hamish’s uncle.

The medals were now in the family’s possession, she said.

Paul Bonner, of Cromwell, returned the medals to her recently after tracking down the Cameron family.

“It was a terrific surprise,” Mrs Cameron said.

“And what a wonderful thing to do.”

Mr Bonner said he wrote to Mrs Cameron saying his brother and father had told him after Anzac Day celebrations in Onehunga in about 1964, his then 8-year-old brother had come home excited after having found two medals.

“They had no ribbon attached to them and my father had no way of finding out who they may have belonged to. He checked the newspaper lost and found section for a week after the medals turned up, but to no avail,” Mr Bonner said.

Since then, the medals had been tucked away in a collection of family memorabilia and had almost been forgotten, Mr Bonner said.

“Just before my father passed away in June this year, he retrieved the medals and asked me if I might be able to track down the recipient and any surviving family, because he felt very strongly that the medals needed to return home,” he said.

The clear inscriptions on the medals helped in tracking down the Cameron family.

“With that information, it took me only about two minutes to find out the Angus Frank Cameron was from Mataura. I had an electronic copy of his service record right there on my screen courtesy of Archives New Zealand.”

He then found Mr Cameron’s burial details and that he was the son of Alexander and Elizabeth Cameron.

Angus Cameron died on September 15, 1916, aged 33.

He is buried at the Caterpillar Valley Memorial near Longueval at the Somme, in France.

Initially, Mr Bonner could not find any living relatives.

“However, another search found the wonderful Mataura Museum and the mention of the Cameron brothers, who were all pipers – apart from Angus, who was a drummer,” he said.

He contacted the Mataura Museum and the connection was made.

Gore District Council heritage projects officer David Luoni said now the Mataura Museum had an online presence such connections could and did get made.

“For us it reinforces the importance of having our collection online,” Mr Luoni said.