A WWI medal found by police divers in a Sheffield river has today been reunited with the family of the soldier it was awarded to.
Members of the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Marine Unit discovered the medal on the bed of the River Loxley in Hillsborough whilst they were carrying out operational duties on 18 October.
With a bit of help from Clifton Park Museum in Rotherham they found out that the medal belonged to Lance Corporal Stephen Smith from Sheffield who served as part of the 6th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment in WWI.
He landed in Gallipoli, in Turkey on 2 July 1915 and died of wounds he received at Suvla Bay on 9 August 1915.
Police Diver PC Roger Bennett who found the medal said:
“I initially thought it was a coin, but as soon as I realised that it was medal I was amazed. We quickly made the decision to attempt to reunite the medal with Stephen’s family, our research started within hours of us finding it. We put a couple of photos on social media and the rest is history…”
Within 24 hours, the team had messages from all over the world including several of Pte Stephen Smith’s distant relatives.
They told the team they were shocked to see his name appear on social media, they also confirmed what they already knew, that Stephen had died in action in 1915 at just 23 years old.
The team also had contact from a genealogist, who helped them identify Stephen’s closest living relative, Julian Cliff, the soldier’s great nephew.
Today Julian and 22 members of the family have been able to see the medal for the first time at a ceremony held at Clifton Park Museum.
Julian said he was thrilled to hear from the dive team:
“At first I thought it was a hoax, but once things started to fall in to place I was so grateful that Roger and the team had decided to find us. They went beyond the call of duty and they have brought a family together – most of us have never met before today.”
Roger, from the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Marine Unit said:
“We were thrilled to track down Stephen’s family and it was fantastic to learn more about his story, despite it being such a sad ending. I’m so pleased that we have been able to reunite them with such a precious and important part of their family history today.”
Karl Noble is Collections Officer at Clifton Park Museum:
“We wouldn’t usually accept a medal at random like this, but how it was found and how it has brought a family together is really special. We’re so happy to be custodians of it.”
“Pte Stephen Smith’s medal will be part of our York & Lancaster Regimental collection and the team here are already planning a special display.”
Rotherham Council’s Cabinet Member for Cleaner, Greener Rotherham, Cllr Sarah Allen, said:
“I am delighted that the efforts to trace living relatives of Pte Smith have been successful, and very proud that the family has agreed for the medal to be presented to the York and Lancaster Regimental Museum here in Rotherham.”
Featured image credits: South Yorkshire Police
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