WESTVILLE – The two First World War death medallions that sit in a glass case at the Pictou County Military Museum have an odd story. They belonged to the Miller family, who found one in their lawn after it had been missing for 70 years.
A relative who lives in Georgia contacted the family a few years ago. He told them that he had one of the death medallions of two brothers from Westville, William Lindsay Miller and John Robert Miller, who both died in action in WWI. He said he was going to send the medallion he had back to the family in Westville, but had no idea where the second medallion was.
Granville Miller, a nephew of the two brothers who died, had been compiling information about his uncles’ time at war for years when he heard the news about the medallion. He said everyone in the family was at a loss for where the second medallion could be.
“When my uncle emigrated to Pennsylvania in the early 1920s, he apparently took one with him. The other one went out of sight and nobody knew where it was. But apparently, their mother had it, but she had it stored away,” Miller said.
The same year they started wondering about the location of the second medallion, a family member, Eric Sharpe, found it in the grass between his house and his wife’s mother’s house.
It had been lying there, hidden by blades of grass for at least 70 years, Miller suspects, and it just so happened that they knew exactly what it was when they stumbled upon it because they had already received the first medallion from the relative in Georgia.
“That’s why one of them is in quite good shape and the other one is tarnished,” Miller said.
That all happened two years ago and, now, the Miller family has donated the two death medallions and other memorabilia of the two soldiers to the Pictou County Military Museum in Westville.
The Miller family gathered Wednesday to donate the death medallions and the other items.
Founder and president of the Pictou County Military Museum Vincent Joyce said death medallions were enlarged British pennies given to Canadian families by the government if they had a family member who died in the war.
“It was the only medallion given out of any kind that’s called a death,” he said. “They went from there to what’s called a Mother’s Cross… then it was called the Silver Cross and today they call it – because a father can get it if someone’s killed in the military – it’s called the Memorial Cross. So now a father can get it, or brother or family member.”
After more than 70 years of separation, the two brothers’ death medallions are now encased together with photos, statements of service and other documents that belonged to William and John Miller, where they’ll be for years to come.