Owner Sought For WWI Victory Medal

Clare Champion, Friday, November 14, 2008

By Peter O’Connell

Attempts are being made to reunite a World War I Victory Medal with its rightful owners, following a Clarecastle man’s discovery that it belonged to Private Patrick King from Ennis.

Alan Barnes, who acquired the medal four years ago after it was found in mud outside Clarecastle church, matched the serial number on the medal with the number beside Private’s Kings name when reading last week’s Clare Champion. The ‘Champion had listed the details of every Clare man who died during World War I. He had previously discovered from the 1901 census that there were only three Patrick Kings in Clare at that time.

Private King, from Turnpike in Ennis, died of wounds received in France on February 2, 1915. He served with the British Army’s South Lancashire Regiment 2nd Battalion.

Mr. Barnes, who is a taxi driver, has been unable to track down the serviceman’s family so he has now presented the medal to Clare Museum, where it will be put on display, in the hopes of finding Private King’s descendants.

“The Clare Museum has placed the medal on display in a bid to track down members of Private King’s family, who are the artefact’s rightful owners,” John Rattigan, curator of Clare Museum commented.

According to the 1901 Census, Patrick King was a 17-year-old farm-hand working at a location close to Kildysart. Besides that, there is very little known about Private King or the whereabouts of any of his descendants.

“The story of Clare’s 7,000 World War I participants has been well documented. However, how this Victory Medal ended up buried in mud on the grounds of a local church remains a mystery. I believe that by tracking down members of Private Patrick King’s family, we can contribute in some way to remembering all of Clare’s soldiers who died in the First World War,” Mr. Rattigan added.

The Victory Medal was instituted in 1919 to commemorate the Allies’ defeat of the Central Powers. It was resolved that each of the Allies should issue a Victory Medal to their own nationals. Private King’s medal was one of 5,725,000 British Victory medals issued.

The medal has been placed on display as part of Clare Museum’s 90 Years On – County Clare and The Great War exhibition, marking the 90th anniversary of the ending of the Great War.

Among the other items placed on display are the medals, photographs and personal stories of Clare men who served in the 1914-1918 War.

Mr. Rattigan pointed out that the majority of the 640 men from Clare killed during the fighting were serving for the American, Canadian or British armies. “Many Clare people are unaware of the considerable contribution made by their fellow county men to sign up and fight in the army of a foreign country. It is widely accepted that a combination of unemployment, idealism and adventure probably accounted for most of the enlistment,” he noted.

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