Wednesday, 21 January 2015

My Great Grandfather's stolen war medals

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the death of a great military man. I will forgive you for thinking I'm referring to Churchill - I'm not. I'm talking about my great grandfather, Lt Col Alexander James Trousdell DSO MC. He had an amazingly varied army career. Sadly the fruits of which, his medals, are no longer here to show it. 17 years ago they (along with 19 other medals from 9 family members spanning from the Crimea to Northern Ireland)  were stolen and we still desperately want AJ's medals back. 

On 11th December 1909, AJ commissioned into the Royal Irish Fusiliers and joined the 2nd battalion in India a few months later. By April 1910, after two months, he was casevaced back to the UK, his legs paralysed by polio. Despite being mobile, he was discharged as unfit for any service on 27th July 1912. With the outbreak of war in 1914, AJ was recalled to the Colours and served in Flanders and France. In December 1916, as a Captain, he was briefly appointed Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion. As a result of his wartime exploits, he was awarded a DSO and an MC. His military career ended with the war and he left as a Major. 21 years later another war called him back. At a youthful 50 years old, he rejoined as a Lieutenant and commanded a Battalion of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. He left, finally, as a Lt Colonel. 

His First World War medals - the DSO, MC, a Victory Medal and a British War Medal with a Rosette showing he was Mentioned in Despatches - were stolen from his aunt's home in central London in 1926. The War Office (now MoD) agreed to replace them. Both sets of medals were engraved with his name. 

As he was a little on the old side, he served only in the UK during WW2 so, like everyone, was awarded the Defence Medal and the War Medal. 

My Grandfather (also of Royal Irish Fusiliers), AJ's eldest son, inherited the medals. The WW1 replacement set and the WW2 pair were all mounted together. Sometime in the 70s/80s, Grandpapa received a call from the Royal Irish Fusiliers museum asking why he was selling AJ's medals without first offering them to the museum. To Grandpapa's delight, the original stolen set had turned up. He promptly bought them and mounted them in the same case.  It is unusual to have two sets of the same medals which made them even more special. 

The medal set was given to my father (yes, also Royal Irish) but being on his own military career path, he asked that Grandpapa hang on to them, knowing that he was keen to keep them for as long as possible. This was a fateful decision. 

On the weekend of 22/23rd May 1998 my grandparents had a rare weekend away from their house in Beckington. While they were away the house was burgled and pretty much everything they owned was stolen. They, and the family, were completely devastated. 

A total of 29 family medals that covered a period of history from the Crimea to Northern Ireland and involved 9 members of my family, including AJ's, were taken. Grandpa's own 6 medals from WW2 and subsequent campaigns were part of that 29. The only surviving replica is the box in which the original medals were kept. 

On a recent battlefield tour in France, Daddy traced AJ's war. 'I found pretty much where he was during the first day of the Battle of the Somme which was pretty moving' he recently told me. '50 years on from his death I recall with gratitude this gentle man who was such an enormous influence in my early life. It is my everlasting regret that his medals have never been recovered.'

17 years is a long time to be looking and we know they could be anywhere but we want to find them. If you're able to help us, in anyway, retrieve these treasured medals, we will be eternally grateful. 

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