Discarded First World War medals found at ReStore returned to Peterborough woman

Click to play video: 'First World War medals turn up in donation box, find their way back to Peterborough woman'
First World War medals turn up in donation box, find their way back to Peterborough woman
Well, you know what they say.. one man's trash is another man's treasure. In this case, an incredible set of war medals was going to end up in the garbage, if it wasn't for an attentive staff member. Noor Ibrahim has the story. – Nov 6, 2019

Catherine Allen called it an “astonishing morning” on Wednesday as she received a family collection of First World War medals which had been  discarded at a Peterborough non-profit store this summer.

READ MORE: Medals from fallen WWII soldier given to Calgary granddaughter after being found in Goodwill donations

According to Habitat for Humanity Peterborough and Kawartha Region, on July 7 an employee at the Humanity ReStore North on Milroy Drive discovered a set of war medallions and a swagger stick at the bottom of a donated box. The non-profit organization’s stores specialize in selling gently used household items and building materials.

“We knew this collection was sentimental and had to be returned to the family,” said Christina Skuce, director of philanthropy and communications with Habitat Peterborough.

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Skuce says board member Jill Bennett spent weeks investigating the origins of the medals. With help from Maj. (Retired) W.E. Gary Campbell, medals advisor with the Royal Canadian Legion, Bennett traced the medal recipients to Maj. George Raymore Scott and Honorary Capt. Rev. Andrew Joseph Vining.

“I first started learning what the medals were and what war they were issued from,” said Bennett, who explored archives and even online sites to trace the recipients’ family trees.

Bennett learned that Scott was a doctor in Peterborough who, after the war in 1946, founded the Scott Medical Clinic on George Street. The building is presently the site of Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

READ MORE: New Remembrance Day pins on sale at Peterborough Humane Society

Her research eventually led her to Allen,  who is the daughter of Scott and granddaughter of Vining (father-in-law of Scott). She received the medals during a ceremony at Princess Gardens Retirement Residence where she now calls home.

“I’m so thankful the people persevered until you found where the medals belonged, to whom they belonged and the history,” said Allen, who is 92, during a brief ceremony.

“It’s a very special feeling to have a part of them back in our possession,” she said.

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Allen said her father, a native of Peterborough, graduated from the University of Toronto and then joined the British army as a doctor and served from 1917-18. He stayed in England to complete an internship and then got married in 1919.  He was father to three children — Allen is the youngest.

Click to play video: 'Restored Second World War aircraft returns to Calgary'
Restored Second World War aircraft returns to Calgary

The medals awarded to Scott included:

  • British Coronation medal (1937)
  • Canadian Efficiency Decoration (1940)
  • Victory Medal (1914-1918)
  • British War medal (1914-1918)

The swagger stick had stamped initials of Scott’s name.

The collection included the following medals awarded to Vining:

  • Silver Jubilee medal (1935)
  • Victory Medal (1914-1918)
  • British War medal (1914-1918)

READ MORE: Steinbach woman tracks down family of WWI letter-writer

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“I didn’t realize they were even missing,” Allen said.

“It’s not the sort of thing that comes up in everyday conversation.”

“I’m standing here goose-fleshed,” she quipped.

Habitat for Humanity presented the medals to Allen in a commemorative case.

“This is an important piece of family history and I was honoured to do my part to reunite the precious collection with its rightful owners,” she said.

Allen said she will likely pass the medals on to another family member to store them in a safe place.

More to come.

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