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6th Light Horse & 8th Division Medals Returned to Family - Walter BOOTH

What does the 6th Light Horse Regiment of Great War fame....and the 8th Australian Division, captured in Singapore during World War Two; have in common? That would be the name:- Walter James BOOTH. And a very rare and collectable set of medals, issued to this man for service during two World Wars - have been returned to his family. South Coast man Christopher Heffernan could easily have sold these medals on ebay for a very handsome sum. With a commercial value of $1,500 or more, he returned these medals to the soldier's family - totally free of charge.chrisheffernanmedals_400_01

After surviving a desert war, Walter re-enlisted for a second time over twenty years later. Only to be captured during the fall of Singapore and become a prisoner of war to the Japanese. He was savagely bashed to the point that he had to be treated by the legendary Doctor, Weary Dunlop and was subsequently mentioned in Weary's biography. And now, Walter's medals are back where they rightfully belong after being lost to his family for over 35 years.

PHOTO RIGHT: Chris Heffernan with the First World War Medals (1914-1915 Star, British War Medal & Victory Medal) in his right hand; and the Second World War Medals (1939-1945 Star, Pacific Star, 1939-1945 War Medal and the 1939-1945 Australia Service Medal) in his left hand.

It was a classic example of a widowed man (with children to his first marriage) marrying for a second time; and when he dies - his medals remain with the family of his second wife. If there were no children as a result of this second marriage - then the medals usually remain with a family that has a minimal right to their claim. In this case, when Walter's first wife Edith passed away, he later married Miss Ellie Brogan. Herself a veteran of the Middle East and Pacific Wars, Ellie nursed many POW's at the cessation of hostilities and they were married in 1957.

Thankfully, in this instance - Ellie's nephew Chris made the moral decision, to have the medals returned to Walter's family. He showed the medals to Gary Traynor from Medals Gone Missing and after a number of telephone calls; the family of Trooper (later Staff Sergeant) Walter James BOOTH were located at Copacabana, south-east of Gosford in New South Wales. His son Walter BOOTH (junior) was very shocked to receive this call and only too happy to make the five hour trip south - to retrieve his fathers "lost" medals.

Walter (by his own admission - no longer a young man himself) told the Medals Gone Missing Administrator:- I had never known what happened to dad's medals. Now that we have them back, I will give them to my grandson to wear on Anzac Day. This set of medals, was the first medal set that the Medals Gone Missing team had an association with their return. To be lost from the family for well over 35 years - and then 'found' again through the kind actions of another, was a very welcome result. It is a great feeling, not only for the receiver....but also for the 'giver' - to have something so important returned to the ancestors of a man who served his country so well. walterboothww2medals_400

PHOTO LEFT: Staff Sergeant Walter James BOOTH of the 2/3 Reserve Motor Transport Company, prior to his embarkation for Singapore. You will note that he is wearing the ribbon bar of his First World War campaign medals on his uniform, above his left breast pocket. Like many soldiers who had service during the Great War, Walter put his age down to make himself eligible for service in the Second AIF. Claiming to be 39 years of age upon enlistment, when he was actually 50.


Medal Set Re-United After 58 Years - James McGRATH

evawithmedals_400PICTURED LEFT: Eva COLE holding the 1939-45 Star, Pacific Medal and 1939-45 War Medal that she has now re-united with the Australian Service Medal. The medals were awarded to her brother Jim McGRATH who was killed in action in Singapore in 1942. Seperated for over 58 years, her brother's service medals will now be mounted together as a 'set' so that they will never be parted again.

Eva COLE from Katoomba has cherished the memory of her big brother James (Jim) ever since she was a little girl. She can still remember that day in the small country town of The Rock (near Wagga), when her mother Ida - lined Eva up with her siblings and told them all to "Say good-bye to your brothers". On this day, James Francis McGRATH was leaving for training in the AIF as a Signalman with the 8th Division Signals. His younger brother Francis (Frank) had arranged to enlist with the 7th Division Cavalry Regiment. Sadly, this was the last time that she would see her big brother - Jim.

Eva was a member of the Girl Guides at this time and could read Morse Code. So when Jim was to write letters home, he would always sign off with the instruction written in morse "Look after mum" for Eva's eyes only. She always felt a special bond with her when the war was over and it was finally confirmed in 1945 that Jim had been 'killed in action' three years earlier - their family would never be the same again. It had always been hoped that Jim was alive as a Prisoner of War. And titbits of information that filtered back to Australia offered a small glimmer of hope. But when the 8th Division diggers finally did return to Australia after three long and arduous years in captivity, the fear which they held for their brother's safety was tragically realised.

PICTURED BELOW RIGHT: Signalman James (Jim) McGRATH in camp - believed to be at Ingleburn, N.S.W prior to his deployment to Malaya.

jimmcgrathingleburn_400Around 1951, Eva's mother handed her three war medals which had been posthumously awarded to Signalman NX29918 James Francis McGRATH. These medals; the 1939-1945 Star, the Pacific Star and the 1939-1945 War Medal were the one tangible reminder that she would have of her brother Jim. The fourth medal; the 1939-1945 Australian Service Medal which completed Jim's full entitlement - had been given to Eva's younger sister, Patricia. These medals were deeply valued and would be worn in Jim's honour every Anzac Day.

In February of 2009, Eva generously passed her three medals on to her nephew Gary; so that the set was finally re-united after 58 years. With regards to a predecessor's war medals, Gary holds the belief that the medals belong to the entire family. Whoever holds them is NOT the new owner. We are simply temporary "custodian" of these medals - and they should be guarded as a family heirloom. Just as an item, such as a wedding ring belonging to your grandmother should be cherished - these war medals are priceless. They should remain in the family as a constant reminder of one man's sacrifice and the subsequent impact that 'war' can have on just one family.

The medals had never been "mounted". They will now be professionally swing mounted on their original ribbons - so that they will never become seperated again.

FOOTNOTE: This "seperation" of the medals circa 1951 is not an isolated incident. If you would like to read more, please see the Article of Interest titled "Why War Medals Go Missing" located in the HINTS AND TIPS category.

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