Family donates long-missing war medallions to museum

Amy MacKenzie
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From left: Harold Miller, Catherine Fraser, John Fraser, founder and president of the Pictou County Military Museum Vincent Joyce, Granville Miller and Catherine MacKenzie gather for a photo. All except Joyce are relatives of two brothers who died in the First World War. They donated the two brothers’ death medallions to the museum Wednesday. AMY MACKENZIE – THE NEWS

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.

Organizations: Pictou County Military Museum Vincent Joyce

Geographic location: WESTVILLE, Georgia, WWI Pennsylvania Silver Cross

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Recent comments

  • Harry Raue
    January 17, 2013 - 20:51

    Harold and I met some years ago on a cruise ship and despite some stories he can tell this one I believe. Here' to the two whose sacrifice is remembered thus.

  • Keith MacKenzie
    January 17, 2013 - 15:07

    These are my great-uncles. I knew their names from the cenotaph in Westville, and now I've learned a little more. Thanks for bringing this article to my attention, Karen.

  • Awesome
    January 17, 2013 - 07:35

    In memory the medallions represent these two brothers being together again; personally for me I don't believe finding the two coins in this way is a coincidence but was meant to be and it would seem that Eric was led to the missing coin in spirit and a sign from the brothers that they are together. What a great story and a big part of the history of the museum and Westville.

    • Tammy Scott nee Miller
      January 17, 2013 - 10:34

      As a great niece to William and John, I am so proud that our family can share our memorabilia with Westville. They will live on forever in our hearts......we have never forgotten them nor the sacrifice so many young men and women made. What a beautiful day!!!

    • Karen Miller - Pleasant
      January 17, 2013 - 12:49

      These two brothers are my great uncles, I'm so glad and proud that we get to share this with everyone.