World War One medal found at bottom of Sheffield river reunited with soldier's family thanks to The Star

The family of a World War One soldier who was killed in action in Gallipoli in 1915 have been reunited with one of his medals after it was found at the bottom of a Sheffield river.

Wednesday, 19th December 2018, 6:39 pm
Updated Wednesday, 19th December 2018, 6:43 pm
A WW1 Medal discovered by police divers has been reunited with the family. n October, divers from the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Marine Unit were carrying out operational activities in the River Loxley in Sheffield when they found a WW1 medal. The medal, which belonged to Stephen Smith, is now being reunited with members of his family after a public appeal for information. Pictured is Julian Cliff from the family with the medal. Picture: Chris Etchells

Lance Corporal Stephen Smith's Great War service medal was found in the River Loxley in Hillsborough in October by police divers searching for evidence.

Now, after a social media appeal championed by The Star, Stephen's extended family have been reunited with his medal 103 years after his death.

A WW1 Medal discovered by police divers has been reunited with the family. In October, divers from the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Marine Unit were carrying out operational activities in the River Loxley in Sheffield when they found a WW1 medal. The medal, which belonged to Stephen Smith, is now being reunited with members of his family after a public appeal for information. Pictured is Police Diver Roger Bennett and Julian Cliff from the family. Picture: Chris Etchells

Today, 22 members of his family came together with the dive team who found it at Clifton Park Museum in Rotherham for a ceremony to mark his service.

Stephen, from Sheffield, served as part of the 6th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment in WWI, and was just 23 years old when he died.

He landed in Gallipoli, Turkey on July 2, 1915, tragically dying of wounds he received at Suvla Bay on August 9.

A genealogy specialist enlisted by the police dive team identified his closest living relative as Julian Cliff, aged 77, from the Wirral.

A WW1 Medal discovered by police divers has been reunited with the family. n October, divers from the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Marine Unit were carrying out operational activities in the River Loxley in Sheffield when they found a WW1 medal. The medal, which belonged to Stephen Smith, is now being reunited with members of his family after a public appeal for information. Pictured is Julian Cliff from the family with the medal. Picture: Chris Etchells

Julian - who is Stephen's great nephew - said: 'It is just an amazing day - I can hardly believe it.

'The police got in touch with me and I thought it was a hoax. But then he told me this amazing story.'

Also there was Julian's sister, Susan Hollins, who now lives in Devon.

She said: 'I think there is something more to it. In the year that globally we are remembering the end of the First World War it is almost as if Steven is saying I was there.'

Roger Bennett (photo: SYP).

The branch of Stephen's family who remained in Sheffield were represented at the ceremony by Marie Crooks, whose great-grandfather Charles Smith was Stephen's brother.

She was in Spain when she read The Star's story about the found medal and immediately recognised the name.

Her daughter Nikki Armstrong - who by chance had started doing their family tree two and a half years ago - said she started getting in touch with people straight away.

On the day the medal was found in October, the Yorkshire and the Humber police dive team were conducting a fingertip search of the River Loxley in Hillsborough.

Photo: SYP.

The man who found the medal, PC Roger Bennett, said: 'We were wearing gloves so it was quite difficult to feel what it was. I initially thought it was one of those old pennies and just put it in my pocket.'

'I realised later that it was a medal with a ribbon at the top, cleaned it up and discovered the service number.'

The police's media team then put out an appeal on Twitter and from there it was picked up by Sam Cooper, a reporter at The Star.

'It was just a case of trying to get it back to someone who it meant something to,' said Roger.

'Within 24 hours we were getting people saying we might know whose it is. We have discovered more and more members of the family and it has brought them here today.'

Roger's colleague, PC Dave English said: 'Everyone associates us with missing people but very occasionally we find things like this.

'When we realised what it was we put it on social media and it ended up of the front page of the Star.

'From there it just snowballed with people coming forward from all over the place.'

The medal will now be looked after by Clifton Park Museum.

Karl Noble, collections officer, said: 'We wouldn't usually accept a medal at random like this, but how it was found and how it has brought a family together is really special. We're so happy to be custodians of it.'

'The medal will be part of our York & Lancaster Regimental collection and the team here are already planning a special display.'

You can follow the Yorkshire and the Humber Marine Unit on Twitter @YaTHMarineUnit.