THE medal of a World War I soldier from Saddleworth, bought on a whim in a local charity shop, has been returned to his surviving family in New Zealand thanks to the help of a Tameside man.
Private George Mays was a stretcher bearer in the 4th Battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment in the First World War.
He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for rescuing five men who became trapped in the dug-out of a battery that was being shelled.
Frank Harrop, who volunteers with the Friends of Stalybridge War Memorial, was able to trace Private Mays’ family through local history records.
Les Mays, George’s first cousin twice removed, described the moment his medal arrived a “one that was frozen in time” for the family.
He said: “My grandfather William Mays, and George, were cousins. William was born in Openshaw, South Manchester, and George was born in nearby Tintwistle.
“My grandfather came to New Zealand in 1925 and never got to go back home again, and therefore never saw his family or extended family again.
“My late father told me that when he was young, he would receive birthday and Christmas gifts from England, every year, from William’s parents.
I achieved one of my lifelong ambitions in January 2020, by visiting Tintwistle and Hadfield, where many Mays and extended family, were born, married and passed away.
“I also walked past the very house where George was living in 1901, totally oblivious to his WW1 exploits, his heroism, and then a year later, I become guardian to his DCM. I still pinch myself.”
The medal, Les says, will now take pride of place in his home and has instilled a true sense of pride, excitement and respect amongst the extended family.
He added: “What if Lyn’s father hadn’t purchased Georges’ medal, and if Lyn didn’t have the belief and determination that the medal should be with George’s family?
“And what if Frank hadn’t stepped in to help Lyn to achieve her goal?
“None of the above would have happened and we’d just like to say a big thank you to them for their efforts to return George’s medal to his family after all that time.”