A last-ditch effort was being made this week to find the rightful owners of two lost medals dropped during last year’s Association of Jewish Ex-servicemen and Women (AJEX) Parade.
The named medals were awarded to Pte H. Willestone, who served in the First World War, and Lt G.M Beck, who served in the Second World War.
AJEX chiefs, who would like to return the medals to the owners, say they have searched their members’ database and archive to trace the two men through family members, to no avail. “They’re irreplaceable, you can’t duplicate them, because they have their names on them,” said AJEX chairman Brian Bloom, adding that they were found on the ground along the route of the march.
Both men served for several years, with Beck serving in the armed forces well into the 1950s, earning a Territorial and King’s Medal, while Willestone served throughout the whole of the First World War campaign.
“He [Willestone] has a 1914-1918 medal and a Great War of Civilisation medal, 1914-1919, meaning he was in it from the very start,” said Bloom. “He must have gone through hell. He was almost certainly in the trenches. Both men earned their medals the hard way.”
Most former soldiers are now in their 90s, so family members often carry the medals along the route, with small children sometimes given the honour.
An estimated 55,000 Jews fought in the First World War and 65,000 in the Second World War, and earlier this month, a “very moving” service was held at Bevis Marks Synagogue, to remember those who fell at the Battle of the Somme, including 37 Jews among the 19,240 men were killed on the first day.