Family finds lost military medals belonging to relative killed in Passchendaele
Hilary Caton, CTV News Toronto
Published Friday, November 10, 2017 4:40PM EST
Last Updated Friday, November 10, 2017 6:55PM EST
For the past 70 years the Haber family believed the military medals of their relative Frank Angus McKinnon, who fought in the First World War, were lost.
But 100 years after McKinnon fought in Passchendaele, the Haber family finally knows what happened to their precious mementos.
The journey to find the medals began with McKinnon’s great nephew Bill Haber, a now retired principal, who became an amateur historian after learning about his great uncle’s military history.
“We talk about him all the time, like he’s a living vibrant part of our family,” Haber told CTV News Toronto.
McKinnon was a Private with the 102nd Canadian Infantry and was just 17 years old when he enlisted. He was one of 4,000 soldiers who fought the Germans and died in the battle of Passchendaele 100 years ago, on Nov. 18 1917.
His body never returned home. Instead his sister received two war medals and a memorial plaque – keepsakes that eventually went missing at the hands of her cousin.
“I called my father and he explained to me, for a lack of a better term, that these were wrongfully removed from the family,” Haber told CTV News Toronto.
“My grandmother had a cousin who asked to borrow it to show it to friends and after repeated requests to return it, she refused to. It really upset my grandmother, because it was one of the few items she had of her brother's life.”
According to historical records, Haber learned McKinnon is the last Canadian soldier to die on that battlefield and has the death certificate to prove it.
But the medals are the missing pieces to McKinnon’s historical puzzle.
They hold a tremendous amount of sentimental value for Haber and his father Don, who is now the rightful owner to the medals since Haber’s grandmother’s passing about 30 years ago.
The more he learned, the more interested he became in his great uncle’s past and spent the last several years trying to track down the missing medals but kept coming up short, until recently.
Haber got a glimmer of hope when, to his surprise, he found McKinnon’s victory and war medals along with a memorial plaque at the Jeffrey Hoare Auctions website in London, Ont.
But after calling the auction house he discovered the medals had already been sold to an anonymous buyer for $400.
But all hope wasn’t lost. Haber worked with the auction house and wrote a letter pleading for their return in hopes to get them back in time for his trip in November.
“They were kind of lost in time and lost in space. We’re talking 70 years these things have been away from our family,” he said.
“We got the needle in the haystack cornered. We know exactly where it is.”
Tune in tomorrow at 6 p.m. when we reveal part 2 of our story, and the fate of McKinnon’s war medals.