Soldier's son keen to return medals to family of veteran

Michael Quirke with the tin of medals

Michael Quirke with the tin of medals

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Headington and Marston. Call me on (01865) 425411

FOR the last 20 years Michael Quirke has kept a box of Great War medals and badges in an old tobacco tin in his cabinet.

The 80-year-old paid the modest price of £8 for the items from a bazaar at St Mary and St John’s Church, in Cowley Road, in the early 1990s.

Now, with the nation marking 100 years since the start of the First World War, Mr Quirke wants to reunite the decorations with their original owner’s relatives.

Among the decorations is a note issuing a ‘War Badge’ to a Sergeant William Arthur Schooley of the Royal Field Artillery.

Mr Quirke, of Oxford’s Townsend Square, said he decided to take up the challenge after being inspired by his own father’s Great War experiences.

The father-of-two said: “I don’t know what it might mean to them; it might mean nothing, it might mean a lot.

“But as far as I’m concerned it would mean a lot to do it because of my own family’s link to the war.

“The family might have been hard-up and that’s why they were put up for sale.

“I don’t know why they got rid of them.

“It would be nice if relatives could be found.”

The decorations, nestled in a Skipper Brand British Navy Cut tobacco tin, are the Victory Medal, the British War Medal and the Silver War Badge. The War Medal was approved in 1919 to be issued to officers and men for service given during the conflict.

Most servicemen who received the War Medal also received the Victory Medal, in a combination known as ‘Mutt and Jeff’.

Also included in the tin is a commemorative pin from the British Empire Exhibition in 1924, which promoted nations in the British Empire.

There are also badges from the Merchant Navy and Royal Field Artillery.

Silver War Badges were issued to men who had been honourably discharged due to wounds or sickness.

They were issued to avoid civilians handing them white feathers, which were given to men not in uniform as a mark of cowardice.

Mr Quirke, a retired steel company owner, said his father, John, served in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers before being taken prisoner during the Battle of the Somme.

He said: “I have a bit of interest in the war because of my father and have read a lot about it.

“My father talked about it but I don’t remember a lot because I was young then.

“I remember him telling stories about the frost and how they had to leave wounded soldiers who froze to death in the trenches because they couldn’t move.”

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