A team of canal workers found the medal once they had drained the Sheffield & South Yorkshire Navigation to fit new lock gates at Aldwarke Lock near Rotherham. Now the Trust is trying to find who the medal was awarded to so they can return it to their family.
The Inter-Allied Victory Medal, often known simply as the Victory Medal, was awarded to to all those who had served in the armed forces or in military hospitals on the various battlefronts between 5 August 1914 and 11 November 1918. It was awarded to soldiers from each of the Allied countries who decided together that they should issue a Victory Medal.
Made from bronze and measuring 36mm in diameter the medal depicts the winged figure of Victory on one side and the words The Great War For Civilization 1914-1919 on the other. The name W Clarke is inscribed around the edge of the medal and the Trust is hoping that may help to identify who it was awarded to.
The team discovered the medal at the bottom of the lock once it had been drained ready for new lock gates to be fitted. One of the team, Mark Long, was clearing the lock chamber of built-up mud and debris when he came across the medal. The team also found two cannonballs and the Trust's heritage experts are doing some research to try and find out more about where they came from and how they got into the canal. It's possible that they may have been transported on the water during the English Civil War.
The works formed part of the Trust's winter programme of restoration and repairs which sees painstaking works carried out on historic canal walls, locks and lock gates across the country.
Mark Long said; “We couldn't believe it, we're used to uncovering all sorts when we drain a canal but I've never found anything like this. I was clearing the mud and silt out of the lock so we could get started and there it was. I've no idea how it ended up in the canal but it's a real shame that it did and I'd love for it to be returned to the family of this person who gave so much to earn it.”
Judy Jones, heritage advisor for the Trust said; “South Yorkshire's waterways have a rich history all of their own but this is a really interesting discovery. The medal isn't especially valuable but it's of huge symbolic importance to someone and we really want to reunite it with its proper owner. Somebody served during the war to earn this medal and it's right that we get it back to them or their family.
“We're not sure about the cannonballs but we're keen to do some research and understand a bit more about them and, who knows, maybe uncover another chapter in the colourful history of South Yorkshire's waterways.”
Every year the Canal & River Trust carries out a programme of works to conserve and repair the fragile infrastructure of the canals and rivers in its care. Teams of experts replace lock gates and complete essential maintenance across 2,000 miles of canals and rivers so they can be enjoyed by over 33,000 boats and 10 million towpath visitors each year. This winter the Trust is working on around 100 locks across the country, replacing 141 lock gates. Over £45million is being spent nationwide.