Photo: Courtesy of Marjorie Fuhrer
A Lost Campaign Medal Returns Home
The Star was a campaign medal awarded to all soldiers who served with or alongside British forces in the First World War. There were more than two million such medals distributed to those who served and their families, but this is a story of one medal in particular.
In 1949, when my husband Albert was a youngster, he found a Star medal, its ribbon still attached, together with a battered brigade cap, in his hometown of Gadsby, Alta. As children will do, the hat and ribbon were played with and consequently were lost overtime. But Albert kept the medal. He always hoped to one day find the person the medal had been awarded to—James Spiden, according to the inscription.
On Remembrance Day in 2016, the medal was brought out and the story of its finding was told to our daughter Velvett and her friend, Ellen Peterson. The girls began a quest to find out more about the medal—why it was awarded, and when and how many were issued. That accomplished, they turned their efforts to finding out more about James Spiden. Using Internet sites and Canada 411 in particular, Velvett and Ellen searched for any Spidens who had immigrated to Canada during and shortly after the First World War. There was only one Spiden listed as coming to Alberta in that time period. Albert called up the number the girls provided him with and—lo and behold—he found himself speaking with the nephew of James Spiden. Unbelievable!
The nephew—Mr. Adam M. Spiden—who resides in Edmonton, told Albert that James was one of four brothers originally from Sterling, Scotland. He had been a soldier in the 11th Platoon of the Royal Scots Frigates. Unfortunately, James had been killed in 1918, just before the Armistice was declared.
According to the girls’ Internet findings, it seems that many of the 2,860,000 Star medals distributed were awarded posthumously, since they were only introduced in 1918.
How James Spiden’s was lost in Gadsby, Alta., all those years ago is still a mystery. But Albert is pleased to know that it is now in the hands of the Spiden family. Adam Spiden had two children, a daughter now deceased, and a son. It’s Albert’s hope that the medal will be passed on to the son one day, and cherished by the Spiden family for generations to come.