Appeal to trace owner of WWI medal found in Porthcawl

WWI medal belonging to Pte William John BoadenImage copyright
Su Wright

A team of Swansea metal detectorists who found a World War One medal have appealed for help to trace its owner.

The Victory Medal, awarded to active Allied servicemen after the 1918 Armistice, was found in a farmer’s field in Porthcawl, Bridgend county.

It belonged to Pte William John Boaden, who joined the 3rd Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment.

The team are trying to find out what happened to him after the war and how the medal ended up there.

Pte Boaden was born in Liverton, Devon, on 25 March 1897 and signed up on the outbreak of war aged 17.

‘A mystery’

Searches of the National Archive unearthed Pte Boaden’s service record and although it confirms that he survived the war, it gives no indication of what happened to him afterwards.

Glyn Thomas, Su Wright and Chris Jeffreys – who located it under a fallen tree in the corner of the farm – are at a loss to explain how it ended up there.

“It really is quite a mystery,” Mr Jeffreys explained.

“The field in which we found it is given over to pasture for cattle and hasn’t been ploughed for at least 100 years, so we really don’t know how it could have got there.

“We’d stopped for a sit down on a fallen tree trunk and when I got up and swept the metal detector around, I got a strong signal around the roots.

“The area had been covered dozens of times before, so whether the tree falling disturbed something I don’t know.”

Image copyright
Su Wright

Image caption

National Archive record of Pte Boaden’s service record

In the course of WW1, the Devonshire Regiment served in theatres as far afield as France and Belgium, Mesopotamia, Salonika, Macedonia, Egypt, Palestine and Italy.

After the Armistice, they also fought in northern Russia in the 1919 Civil War.

The medal is badly damaged but Pte Boaden’s name and regimental number are still visible.

The mystery deepens further though, as searches of ancestry websites seem to suggest that Pte Boaden may have emigrated to South Australia in the 1930s.

This would conflict with the team’s best guess – that the medal was in fact lost during WW2.

Image copyright
Su Wright

Mr Jeffreys said: “I hadn’t heard of the Australian connection but that would rule out at least one theory.

“During the Second World War the area was used as an anti-aircraft battery, and we’ve previously found dozens of spent shells there, so we thought that possibly Pte Boaden had lost it there when training with the Home Guard or Reserves, or perhaps one of his sons had taken it along as a keepsake when he was training.

“Really we’d just like to find out a little bit more about his life and hopefully return the medal to his family where it belongs.”

Mr Jeffreys and Ms Wright have only been metal detecting for three years but the medal is not their first big find.

Their other discoveries include Roman jewellery, coins from the reigns of both Elizabeth I and James I, and a Charles II locket bearing his name and portrait.

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