Topic: WWI Medals Return Home 100 Years Late

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Modern technology, a sharp-eyed nephew and the unusual spelling of the family surname have just combined to reunite Otumoetai's Mrs Dulcie Solley with World War 1 medals of her late father-in-law.

Modern technology, a sharp-eyed nephew and the unusual spelling of the family surname have just combined to reunite Otumoetai's Mrs Dulcie Solley with World War 1 medals of her late father-in-law.

Her nephew, Aucklander Craig Kelsall, takes an keen interest in militaria and was trawling US sites on the internet in January when he spotted the medals being offered for sale.

"Our surname, spelled with an 'e' is very uncommon," says Dulcie who is now in her 80s. "I believe we are the only ones in this country. So when Craig saw medals engraved with the family name being offered for sale he investigated further, confirmed the connection with his Aunt Dulcie, and took immediate action to purchase them."

Stephen Robert (Bob) Solley was born of farming stock in Kent, England in 1885 and came to New Zealand with his parents as a child.

The family settled and farmed in Taranaki where Stephen eventually started dairy farming in his own right.

He was attested into the New Zealand Army in 1916 and as he was by then a married family man and a farmer was most likely conscripted as the Army manpower shortage became acute.

"We don't know for certain," says Dulcie. "But he would not have been the first choice category of man to be sent to France."

Stephen Solley survived the war as a Private infantryman on the Western Front and returned to NZ in 1919. He was initially offered a government “rehab” farm in the Whangamomona district which he turned down on account of its remoteness – instead purchasing a dairy property at Tahuna near Morrinsville where he remained until retiring to Greerton in 1949. He died in 1966.

Dulcie has no idea how his two World War 1 service medals, which are correctly engraved with Stephen's name, rank and serial number, came to be in the United States.

"We have questioned family members and nobody knows. It is a complete mystery," she says.

However she concedes her father-in-law never talked about his wartime experiences and never took part in RSA activities, so he may not have considered the medals of any great value.

For now it is planned to have the two medals mounted and framed for display along with explanatory information, and for them to ultimately be passed on to great grandson Stephen who shares his ancestor's name.

 

A story collected by Tauranga WW100

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