A WORLD WAR I medal is being returned to its owner’s family after it was found at the bottom of a well.
It’s the end of a 30-year quest for Pete Carson, who found it while serving as a police officer in Inverness, and finally tracked down the soldier’s grandson on Facebook.
The British War Medal was awarded to a Private William Smellie Hogg, of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.
“It’s an amazing story, and one with a wonderful, happy ending,” said Pete, of Station Road, Carrbridge, Badenoch and Strathspey in the Scottish Highlands.
“At least – it’s sort of ending, as we’ll probably never know the whole story.”
In 1984 Pete was a community police officer and was involved in cleaning out an old well at Inverness Castle when he came across the well-preserved British War Medal.
He recalled: “There is a well at the back of the castle which must be about 25 feet deep, and it was an absolute mess with all the rubbish.
“As a department, we approached Highland Council to ask if they would remove the grill and we would go down on rope ladders and take all the rubbish out.
“We would then go through it all and see if there was anything of interest before it was put in a skip.”
The operation took several days, but coincidentally the medal was discovered on Sunday, November 11, about 11am.
“One of the lads was down there at that point,” Pete said. “He brought it up and it didn’t need to be cleaned. It was in great condition.”
The policeman managed to track down Pte Hogg’s medal index card and discovered he was also entitled to the Victory Medal and served with the 10th 1/7th and 1/5th Battalions.
Two other dates were also mentioned – July 4, 1921, which Pete wondered whether it could be a discharge date, and April 15, 1955, which he speculates could be when Mr Hogg died.
However, further research into Pte Hogg’s war was thwarted when Pete discovered that the World War I documents for the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were destroyed in a bombing raid in World War II.
“It leaves you to wonder why on earth that medal was at the bottom of the well,” he said. “Was it stolen from the house, or thrown out, or is there some other explanation?”
Eventually, an Inverness Courier reader, Nick Garvie, contacted the paper after reading about the search, with information that a William Smelley Hogg had been born in 1891, the son of Henry Hogg and Jean Hogg (maiden name Smellie).
He had several siblings and they lived in Cumbernauld, confirmed by the 1891 and 1901 census. He then married Elspeth Woolgar in Glasgow in 1921, and at the time he was a teacher.
Mr Garvie explained that to find out more required a trip to Edinburgh to search records not available online at the General Register Office for Scotland to trace a living relative.
After 30 years of searching, Pete hit the jackpot using the information posted on Facebook, finally discovering that Pte Hogg had a grandson in Exeter.
He said: “Thanks to the power of social media I can return the medal to the soldier’s family. His grandson is called Iain McDonald, but I haven’t as yet spoken with him as he is currently in transit moving home.
“But I expect to make contact with him very shortly, and will arrange to hand the medal over to its rightful new owner.
“I can’t wait. It will make a fan¬tastic end to this story spanning three decades.”