BUSHMILLS historian Robert Thompson is searching for his uncle Joe’s war medals and Dead Man’s Penny.
Lance Corporal Joseph Lyons Thompson from Ballybogey was killed in action on November 4 1918 aged just 29.
He was the second son of Robert and Martha Thompson of Ballylough, Bushmills.
Robert explained: “Uncle Joe was my dad’s brother. He left the family home in May 1913 to emigrate to New Zealand. Joseph had trained as a chemist in Baxter’s of Church Street, Coleraine and found a job in Auckland as a Chemist assistant. However on November 25th 1916, Joe enlisted at Auckland and volunteered for the 25th reinforcement draft.
“After intensive training, Joe was appointed Lance Corporal and assigned to medical duties. However after returning home on September 3 1918 for two weeks, Joe re-joined his unit on September 21. By this time the British Forces were moving forward and Joe was working with the medical teams close to the front lines.
“Advanced dressing stations had to be set up to deal with the injured and it was on the way to set one of these that Joe was killed. Early morning mist obscured their view and they got too close to the German lines. A machine-gun opened fire and Joe was hit in the side. His mates were forced to take cover and by the time they got back to him, Joe was dead.”
Buried in the field close to where he fell at the roadside, Joe was later removed to Romeries Cemetery a few miles away.
“It was here that I saw his grave for the first time in 1989 during a visit to the battlefields of the Somme,” continued Robert. “I have since visited Joe’s grave, with my son John, four times and I often wonder what happened to his medals and his Dead Man’s Penny. I believe he would have at least received two medals, the War and the Victory medal. His mother and father would have also been given the Dead Man’s Penny. Every British solider killed had a Penny made in their memory from captured German guns.
“Over the years I have seen, and even been given, many medals and pennies.
“However I’ve never even seen my Uncle Joe’s and I would love to know where they are. If anyone has any information I would appreciate it - it’s become a life’s dream just to hold them.”