Military medal found by a metal detectorist in Jersey is reunited with Islander’s family in Australia
FOUR years of detective work have culminated in an Islander’s First World War medal being presented to his descendants in Australia.
The battered British War Medal was found in a potato field in St Brelade in 2015 by metal detectorist Ken Rive, triggering a marathon quest to piece together its history.
Mr Rive had tried to trace the soldier in question, but after drawing several blanks he announced the find on the centenary of Armistice Day in 2018 and appealed for help.
The search was picked up by two members of the Channel Islands Great War Study Group – Jersey-based Jason Cronin, a fellow metal detectorist, and Lara Pollard, a descendant of the Le Rossignol family who lives in Brisbane, Australia.
Using the surname engraved on the edge of the silver medal, and studying records of military service, contact was made with members of the Bichard family in Australia.
Mr Cronin said: ‘I knew it would be a challenge, but I reckoned that with perseverance, and a bit of out-of-the-box thinking, it should be possible to track down the family.’
Allister Bichard emigrated from Jersey to Australia at the age of 15 in 1915, but returned to Europe two years later to fulfil an ambition to serve in the First World War.
Mr Bichard had initially sought to join the Australian Army, but was barred from doing so because he was below the minimum age of 18. As a result, he enrolled in the Honourable Artillery Company in London in February 1917 using the name Macallister Seth Bichard – the variation in name serving as a curveball for the medal investigation.
Mr Bichard was transferred into the Machine Gun Corps and saw action in France before being discharged in 1918 due to injury. Officers and men of British and Imperial forces who served in the First World War were awarded the British War Medal. Two versions were produced, with roughly 6.5 million struck in silver and 110,000 in bronze, the latter being awarded to, among others, the Chinese, Maltese and Indian Labour Corps.
Some gaps remain in the Mr Bichard’s story, including his whereabouts following his discharge. It is believed he returned from France to Jersey, but then in 1927 he returned to Australia with his wife-to-be Blanche Victorine Huchet.
The couple married in 1929 and eventually settled in the Bundaberg area north of Brisbane. Mr Bichard rarely talked about his war service, other than to occasionally remind his children how lucky they were. He died in February 1990.
Mr Rive agreed that the medal should be returned to the family, and a presentation event was held on 27 October at a services’ club in Greenbank on the outskirts of Brisbane. Four generations of Mr Bichard’s family attended, including his sons Alistair and Seth.
‘I was pretty sure that the search had come to a dead end before Jason and Lara picked it up,’ said Mr Rive. ‘It’s great the medal is back where it belongs – there is a value to such items, but they are worth a lot more to a soldier’s descendants, and this obviously meant so much.’
Mr Cronin said he was delighted to have successfully returned the lost property: ‘Allister Seth Bichard had a remarkable life journey and was clearly an exceptional man, whose desire to serve and protect his country saw him travel independently to the other side of the world. He demonstrated the courage, bravery and spirit that has always characterised soldiers of the Australian and British Armed Forces.’
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