Leeds nostalgia: Hunt is on for relatives of Leeds First World War hero who dropped his war medal in a field

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The hunt is on to find relatives of a war veteran who accidentally dropped one of his medals in a Leeds field.

Almost a century after the end of the First World War, the Victory Medal, has been found by a local metal detecting enthusiast.

Rik Jones, who works as a head chef at Devonshire Hall, part of the University of Leeds, took up metal detecting eight years ago and now regularly combs fields around the area.

In the past, he has found Roman and Medieval coins and brooches - he explained how he came across the war medal.

“It was a cold, wet morning and I was detecting on a field in East Leeds. I found a couple of old pennies and then I found this and at first, I thought it was another penny, until I felt the loop at the top and then had a good look.”

He added: “I don’t do this hobby for the money, I think it would be nice to return this to his family, as really it belongs to them.”

Asked to speculate on how the medal ended up there, Rik said: “Maybe he was a labourer on the farm, it’s arable land and it’s been well worked, so maybe he dropped it. I think the pennies nearby might have been his as well. The other theory was that after the war, old war coats were put into the ground for mulch - they rotted but left buttons and whatever was in their pockets, behind.

“I found it near a hedge, so he may have just been having a cuppa and dropped it.”

Rik took the medal to one of his acquaintances, Alan Griggs, whom he knew was interested in researching family history, to see if he could help find out more about it.

Alan managed to do more than that - he ended up with an entire family tree for it’s owner - one John Doherty.

He discovered John volunteered for the army in July 1915 and proceeded to France as a member of the Northumberland Fusiliers, during which time he played a prominent part in many engagements and was gassed. Returning he became a member of the Labour Corps, which dealt mainly with logistics. He was demobbed in 1919. He held the General Service and Victory Medals.

He was born in 1891 or 1892, the 8th child of Henry and Elizabeth Doherty, of 43 Potter Street, Holbeck, Leeds.

In the 1901 Census, his age was given as nine. In 1920, he married Barbara Lyons and they had three children, Eileen (who married George Wright), Edward and Sheila (who married Norman Robertson).

Edward married Irene Weatherill and they had six children, Peter (b.1950), Steven (b.1951), Rita (b.1953), June (b.1955), Yvonne (b.1962) and Dianne (b.1966).

Alan, who is a retired vicar and spent 20 years at Holy Trinity Church in the centre of Leeds, said: “It would be nice to find a proven relative so they can be reunited with the medal and the story. It’s a bit of their family history. I have spoken to people previously who have had medals like this returned to them and it means a great deal.

“The medal itself has little commercial value but to the family it will mean a lot and I think that there’s a good chance one of his descendants is still living and in this area.

“I think it would be a fitting end to the story. We’d love to hear from anyone who thinks they are related.”

If you think you might be related to John Doherty, or know someone who is, please get in touch with Times Past, emailing neil.hudson@ypn.co.uk