History Hub Ulster member, Nigel Henderson, has been successful in re-uniting a lost Great War Silver War Badge with a living relative of the North Belfast soldier to whom it was awarded. The Silver War Badge was issued to men who were discharged from military service due to war-related injuries or illness. The recipients were required wear the badge on the right lapel to show that they had “done their bit” and would not be regarded as shirkers.
Albert Edward Baxter was born around 1884 or 1885 to James Baxter and Agnes Baxter and the family lived at various addresses, Midland Street (Woodvale), Argyle Street (Woodvale), Byron Street (Oldpark) and Harkness Parade (Sydenham).
He enlisted into the Royal Engineers (Service Number 57649, 121st Field Company) on 28/11/1914 within four months of war being declared and, after training, was posted to France with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) on 04/10/1915, where he stayed for just over 1 year. His next posting was back to the Home Service until he was discharged on 24/12/1917 with an unspecified sickness, being awarded Silver War Badge number 295512. Home Service suited Albert, a tailor by trade, as he met Margaret McFarlane and they married on 08/07/1907 in St Anne’s Church, Belfast. Albert died on 16/02/1960 aged 75 and his widow, Margaret, died a couple of months later on 05/04/1960 aged 74. They are both buried in Roselawn.
In early 2014, Brian Duffy, Secretary of the Limerick Branch of the Royal British Legion, discovered the Silver War Badge on a militaria stall in the St George’s Street Arcade in Dublin. Realising the badge had been issued to a Belfast man who had served in the Royal Engineers just as his own Dublin grandfather had, he secured it in the hope of reuniting it with the Baxter family.
Brian said, “I was browsing in the hope of finding my own grand-fathers lost medals but seeing this badge’s local connection, I believed that it could and should be reunited with Albert Baxter’s family. It was an act of Remembrance really and I posted an appeal on the Facebook page that I administer for the Limerick Branch of the Royal British Legion. Our Belfast following is quite strong and I was confident someone there would be able to help”.
History Hub Ulster’s Nigel Henderson, a local Great War researcher, picked up on the post and, having done some additional local research, identified the date on which Albert Baxter died and the names other members of Albert’s family from the death notices in the Belfast newspapers. Nigel posted a request appealing for relatives to come forward on the Belfast Forum and a response was received from Garry Young of Ballybeen in January 2015.
Garry, whose father served with the Royal Ulster Rifles and whose grandfather died with the King’s Royal Rifle Corp during the Dunkirk evacuation, said,
“I knew that my great grand-father was in the Great War, but I did not have any other details. It is fantastic to have this piece of my family history and I am truly grateful to Brian and Nigel for making it possible.”
Unfortunately, Garry Young was too unwell to meet Brian himself and his grandfather’s Silver War Badge was accepted on his behalf by History Hub Ulster’s Gavin Bamford.
Photos: Nigel Henderson