JENNIFER Taylor was mystified when she found a First World War Victory Medal when clearing her parents’ belongings.
The medal had been presented to William James Collins, a man with no connection to her family.
Now she is on a mission to find relatives of the soldier and present the medal to them.
Since the discovery, Mrs Taylor has carried out extensive research and built up a picture of Private Collins’s life.
He was born on November 10, 1898, at Medley Weir on the Thames in Oxford, in St Thomas’s parish.
His father, also William Collins, was born in Marlow, Bucks, and was a lock-keeper on the river, while his mother, Florence, was born in Harwell, near Didcot.
He had five siblings – Frederick born 1901, Minnie (1902), Nova (1906), Alfred (1908) and Jerry (1910).
They were all born at Medley Weir. Records show that William Collins, Private No 5118, was injured but survived the war.
At the age of 17, he was in the Worcestershire Regiment, but he then joined the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and was wounded in the abdomen in 1915.
Another entry shows that he joined the Territorial Army Reserve at Cowley Barracks on February 2, 1917. Mrs Taylor, who lives in Woodstock and whose maiden name was Treadwell, has no idea why the medal was found in her family possessions.
She tells me: “We lived in Observatory Street in Oxford, and a Mrs Collins lived nearby, but why would she want to give the medal to us? “If we can trace relatives of William Collins, I would like to pass it on to them.”
The medal is inscribed The Great War for Civilisation 1914-1919, and on the rim, ‘5118 Pte W Collins, Ox & Bucks LI’. Experts say that the 1914 Star or 1914-5 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal are the most likely medals to be found in family heirlooms.
They were nicknamed Pip, Squeak and Wilfred, after a cartoon strip in the Daily Mirror featuring Pip the dog, Squeak the penguin and Wilfred the rabbit.
The cartoonist was Austin Bowen Payne, whose wartime batman, it is believed, was known as ‘Pip-squeak’.
For some reason, the three names of the characters became associated with the three campaign medals issued at that time to returning servicemen, and they stuck.
When the British War Medal and Victory Medal are on display without the Star, they are sometimes known as ‘Mutt and Jeff’.
If you are a relative of Private William James Collins or know of any family connection, please contact Memory Lane