Matt Franceschini from West-Australia regularly walks around with a metal detector in hand. The man usually finds pre-decimal currency and has had some luck finding prized artifacts and items in the past, but one discovery was the most valuable of all.
He found a piece of history and managed to dig up a “Return from Service” badge that was used during World War I.
The badge dates back to 1917 and was more than a hundred years old.
“I originally thought it was a coin when I pulled it out of the ground, because it is round in shape,” the man told ABC.
“It’s got a crown attached to it and a couple of loops on the back I guess you’d use to fit it to your jacket.”
Matt didn’t think much of the badge when he first found it, but when he returned home and had the chance to clean it, he realized that this badge would hold a ton of sentimental value for the soldier’s family.
“It was pretty heavily encrusted, so I had to take it home and clean it up a bit and that’s when I realised.”
Luckily, the number on the back of the Anzac badge was still partly intact.
Thanks to some searching on the internet, Matt discovered that the badge presumably belonged to veteran Arthur Harold Butler.
The man tried to find his family for almost a year – but he never managed to find any leads. Luckily, he enlisted the help of Dianne Rutherford from the Australian War Memorial organization.
It turns out that the result he found on the internet when entering the badge number, was entirely coincidental. The woman from the veteran’s organization was able to identify the actual owner of the badge, a man named Charles John Richardson. It was given to him in January of 1917 just after he returned home from the war one year before.
“He was involved with the Gallipoli campaign. He arrived on Gallipoli on the 2nd of August 1915.”
“A week later [he] was wounded, a rather severe wound to his left arm and he was sent to Malta and then to England to recover.
“[While there] he got bronchitis so he was sent back to Australia and he was discharged.”
These badges were given to soldiers when they returned home so that they could show and prove their participation in the war, as many feared that they would be accused of cowardice otherwise.
After his revalidation, Charles Richardson re-enlisted and was a tunneller in France during the Great War. He survived the war and started a family afterward. Charles eventually passed away in 1954.
Now that Matt had a new name and lead, there was finally hope again to find the family and return the precious item.
“To think that someone lost it 100 years ago and then to piece together their story with the help of other people and learn what he went through, and the fact that I’ve found a piece of that history is just mind blowing to me,” he said.
“That’s the whole reason I got into this hobby, the history behind things like this just blows me away.”
Just a couple of days after Matt got in touch with local news outlets, the man contacted Gary Richardson, the veteran’s grandson.
Gary himself was very surprised to hear from Matt, and he was absolutely thrilled about the discovery of his grandfather’s World War I badge.
“I was very surprised to receive a phone call about his badge, it was really thrilling, it takes me right back to stories about my grandfather,” the grandson told.
“It’s absolutely amazing to find something that could have been buried all those years ago.”
“I think he would be thrilled to bits that an interest has been taken in something that happened so long ago and has just by chance been unearthed.”
Thanks to Matt’s determination to find the owner’s family, this piece of history and precious item is finally back where it belongs.
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As for Gary, he now wears the medal every single day with pride and will pass it down to his children so that the artifact stays in the family.
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