Family overjoyed at being reunited with prestigious medals of First World War hero in Harwich
- Credit: Su Anderson
The medals of a First World War hero have been reunited with his family after an international search.
In November 1916 Private Hugh McInnes was part of the 16th Battalion of the Highland Light Infantry trapped in a German trench and the Battle of the Ancre, part of the Battle of the Somme.
Despite being under heavy attack for several days Pte McInnes was one of the survivors – but his part in the extraordinary campaign remained unknown to his children and grandchildren.
Unknown, that is, until daughter Annette Joyce, aged 74, found some old paperwork about her father’s military history.
She also found out that he had won a number of medals no longer in the family’s possession.
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Now living in Adelaide, Australia she started a search to find the honours – a search which led her to collector Howard Williamson in Harwich.
Mr Williamson bought Ptc McInnes’ Military Medal and his 1914/15 Star trio (1914/15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal) at an auction around four years ago.
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And after being contacted by the soldier’s family he decided to return the medals to them yesterday, Pte McInnes granddaughter Catherine Tieg coming over from Oslo in Norway to collect them.
Describing the medals Mr Williamson said: “The Military Medal was a highly sought after decoration in the First World War.
“They are quite special to me because I had a relative who won a Military Medal in the First World War.”
Mr Williamson had researched Pte McInnes history to find out how he had won the medal and discovered his part in the Battle of the Ancre.
“This man stood in a trench fighting off attack after attack,” he said. “It was hand to hand combat. They (his battalion) ran out of ammunition so they used German rifles.
“They had taken the second and third line of the German trenches. They refused to surrender. They held out without food or water for eight days.”
Mr Williamson said it was “absolutely the right thing” to return the medals. “I felt if you’d asked her dad if he wanted a medal collector to have them or his daughter I think it would be a bit of a no-contest. We don’t know when they were lost to the family but the good news is that we know the daughter in Australia is absolutely over the moon at having got them back.
“It’s not particularly noble or anything, it’s just the right decision. I hope anyone would do the same.”
Mrs Tieg, aged 51, said her mother was ecstatic to have the medals back in the family.
“When my mum discovered the medals and then contacted Howard she was really overjoyed,” she said.
On finally getting to hold her grandfather’s medals she added: “It was a very moving moment actually, to think it’s back in our family.
“I just feel so proud of my grandfather.”
Mrs Joyce will finally get to see the medals for the first time when Mrs Tieg flies out to Australia at the end of the year.
They will then become a valuable family heirloom, eventually being passed down to Mrs Tieg’s daughter.