Maitland medal returned home

Published on SGT Dave Morley (author), CMDR Chloe Griggs (author)

Location(s): Maitland

Topic(s): Honours, Awards and Trophies

Commander Ian Gray's grandson Master Leo Gray was playing in the garden at his Great Grandfather’s 90th birthday party when he dug up the medal which has been returned to the rightful owner. (photo: Caitlin Schokker)
Commander Ian Gray's grandson Master Leo Gray was playing in the garden at his Great Grandfather’s 90th birthday party when he dug up the medal which has been returned to the rightful owner.

A Navy Commander has helped a First World War-vintage medal return to the home town of it’s recipient after a series of events led to it being found in a flowerbed.
 
Port Services Manager at Garden Island in Sydney, Commander Ian Gray, said his grandson Leo was playing in the garden at his Great Grandfather’s 90th birthday party when he dug up the medal.
 
With military knowledge a family trait, the mystery was soon unfolding.
 
Birthday boy Korean War veteran former Sergeant Colin Gray, combined with his sons Commander Gray and Major Malcolm Gray, of the Australian Army’s 7th Signal Regiment, started on the trail.
 
Commander Gray said his brother did some investigating and discovered the medal belonged to 3232 Private Patrick Leslie Gilligan, whose family lived in the Maitland area of New South Wales before and after the First World War.
 
The flowerbed was in Sergeant Gray’s Newcastle home, and was likely to have lain undisturbed for decades until the discovery in September last year.
 
“The house has been the family home since 1969,” Commander Gray said.
 
“The medal must have come from a pile of soil Dad received as payment for rescuing people in the 1971 Maitland floods.
 
“The dirt was pulled from the Hunter River and we believe the medal must have washed away in the flood of 1971, or possibly the great flood of 1955, and ended up in the water.”
 
The medal was presented to the Maitland and District Historical Society at Maitland War Memorial on 5 May.
 
“Patrick was one of two brothers killed on the Western Front in 1917,” Commander Gray said.
 
President of the Maitland and District Historical Society Keith Cockburn accepted the medal from two-year-old Leo on behalf of the society.
 
Commander Gray said his father, who passed away in early November last year, served in 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, in Korea in 1951-52, firstly in Charlie Company and later as the pioneer sergeant.
 
“He was part of what was called K Force,” he said.