Century-old war medal returned to B.C. family, with new details on how it was earned
A mystery more than 100 years in the making has been solved in Nanaimo, B.C.
The daughter of a First World War veteran always knew her father fought gallantly, but an odd series of events uncovered just how brave he was.
In 1958, Lt. John Austin died. His death was caused by lingering effects of mustard gas poisoning, decades after he served with the Canadian Forces in the First World War.
For his daughter, Margret Sloat, you'd expect the stories about his years in the military would have died with him.
"The trenches were awful. There were rats and water and mud. That's all he said," Sloat told CTV News on Monday.
"(He) never said anything about what he did."
Decades later, however, Sloat would learn about how her father earned a military medal for bravery.
"It says, 'For bravery in the field,'" she said, reading the medal.
The silver, 1917 medal was stolen from Sloat's home, alongside other items, before the pandemic began.
In December 2021, however, a keen-eyed city worker spotted the glistening medal as he cleaned a tent encampment in Nanaimo.
'A GENTLE WARRIOR'
The medal was turned over to Greg Devenish, a volunteer at the Vancouver Island Military Museum.
"The research was really important in this," said Devenish. "Those military medals weren't just handed out."
Devenish traced the origin of the medal and learned that Austin was awarded the commendation at the Battle of Lens in France in 1917.
"During that attack his immediate superior officer goes down," said Devenish. "He rallies his men, gives them orders, and putting his own life on the line, he eliminates the threat."
"He must have been a gentle warrior," added the museum volunteer. "He had to be. He never bragged about it, never talked about it and his daughter never knew what the medal was for."
It was eventually discovered that Sloat was Austin's daughter, and the medal was returned to her.
The Vancouver Island woman says she's grateful that the city worker found the medal, and that Devenish was able to complete so much research.
"Without the two of them, where would (the medal) be?" she said.
"It would be at the dump," she said. "No one would know about it, I wouldn't know all this information about my dad."
A daughter, who already cherished her father's memory, has a 105-year-old reason to be proud again.
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