Father returns war medal he found as child to soldier’s family

Father who found a First World War medal buried in his garden as a child reunites it with the soldier’s family after he posted about it on Facebook

  • Mike Iacovelli was just nine when he unearthed A.G. Hammond’s Freedom medal 
  • Hammond died in battle aged just 24 while fighting on Western Front in France 
  • Medal was lost in fields developed into housing on the outskirts of Worcester 

A man who unearthed a First World War medal in his garden as a child has handed it to the soldier’s granddaughter – 101 years after he died in battle.

Mike Iacovelli was just nine years old when he dug up what he initially thought was an old coin in his vegetable patch.

But after taking his find to a museum, he discovered it was in fact a Freedom Medal which had been posthumously awarded to a soldier who died during the Great War.

Mike – pictured with his three sons Luca, 11, Nicolas, nine, and Christian, six – has returned the medal he found when he was just aged nine and digging in his vegetable patch

Mr Iacovelli handed the Freedom Medal to the granddaughter of Gunner Hammond, 75-year-old Carol Griffiths (pictured)

The medal was inscribed with the initials A.G. Hammond along the rim and the words ‘The Great War for Civilisation 1914 – 1919’ embossed on the front.

The medal had been sent to the family of Arthur George Hammond who was a gunner in the 61st Division’s ammunition column.

The 24-year-old soldier was killed on June 12, 1917, while fighting on the Western Front in France and after the war the medal was sent to his widow in Worcester.

Somehow the medal was either lost or discarded in fields on the outskirts of the city which were later developed into housing.

One of those houses, on Bunns Road, was where Mr Iacovelli and his family lived in the 1980s when he came across while digging in the soil.

A.G Hammond (pictured) died aged 24 while fighting on the Western Front in the First World War 

Mr Iacovelli, now 38, has given the medal to the granddaughter of Gunner Hammond, 75-year-old Carol Griffiths.

‘It has been treasured by me for many years with my intention of one day finding the rightful owners and family who it once belonged to,’ he said.

‘I recall the delight when I started to clean off the dirt and realised that this was not just another old coin for my collection.

‘I convinced my mother to take a trip to Worcester Museum to see if I could get more information.

‘Understandably, back in the early eighties, with nothing much other than the use of an encyclopedia, there was not much I could find.

‘The curator although intrigued with my find then showed me a plethora of medals of all kinds inside a glass cabinet.

‘He explained the one I had was very common and pointed over to show me about 20 of the same all nicely placed out on a tray.’

Mr Iacovelli, a factory production manager, emigrated to Toronto, Canada, in 2004 with his wife Alison, 39, and took the medal with them.

He had then rediscovered the medal years later when showing his three sons – Luca, 11, Nicolas, nine, and Christian, six, his old coin collection, which he stored with the medal in a tin.

Mike (pictured) discovered the discarded medal in his vegetable patch while he was digging there as a child  

Mike – pictured in his garden around the time he unearthed the medal – kept the item as a treasured possession for years

The father-of-three added: ‘I kept the coin in a tin and forgot about it until I was showing the collection to my own sons.

‘We did some research on the internet because I was really baffled as to why and how the medal came to be in my garden.

‘Apparently there were just fields before my house was built so maybe the medal was thrown away or buried.

‘I just to dig up lots of old pipes and coins so it may have been a place where people got rid of things.’

The Freedom Medal was awarded to Gunner Hammond posthumously after he was killed fighting in the First World War 

Just two weeks ago Mr Iacovelli decided to try and find any remaining family of the solider and posted on Facebook group Worcestershire Memories.

Days later Mr Iacovelli received a message from the soldier’s great-great-granddaughter Debbie Evans.

It emerged Gunner Hammond was the son of Elizabeth Hammond and was survived by his wife Nellie Francis, who was mother of their two sons.

Debbie, 43, said: ‘I just got so emotional seeing the post on Facebook. Coincidentally I have been researching my family tree and specifically George because none of her relatives know much about him.

Hammond’s medal has been handed back to his descendants after it was lost in the ground surrounding Worcester. The Latin inscription reads: ‘Everywhere that right and glory lead.’ 

‘Before he died two years ago, I asked my dad Christopher Kitchener about his granddad George, but he didn’t know anything about him.

‘It means an awful lot to have the medal back in the family and I am extremely grateful to Mike for contacting me and keeping it safe for so many years.’

The medal has now been reunited with Mrs Griffiths who lives just 300 yards from where her grandfather’s medal was found.

Mrs Griffiths, who has three grandchildren, said: ‘It is a one in a million find and I am thrilled to have the medal back in the family.

‘Although I never met my grandfather having the medal which was awarded to him is wonderful.

‘It reminds me of the huge sacrifice all those soldiers made during the war.. I will treasure the medal. It’s a piece of our family history which has suddenly come alive.’

 

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