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'Perfect' Remembrance Day as war medals returned to family
LONDON, Ont. -- It’s been a Remembrance Day Shawn MacNeil will not forget.
His mission was to hand deliver three First World War medals to Bayfield and to the family of a soldier who served in the 1st Canadian Infantry.
“It couldn’t be a more perfect Remembrance Day,” MacNeil says while driving from Corunna to Bayfield in snowy conditions to hand over the medals.
“This is my mandate.”
MacNeil is a Veteran Service Officer for the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 447 in Corunna. It was at that branch that a lady dropped off a Laura Secord chocolate box that contained war memorabilia, including shoulder flashes and empty bullet cases, along with the medals.
The three medals are the British Victory Medal, the Canadian Victory Medal and Great War for Civilization Medal.
Each has the name Ernest Henry Bake and his service number. Bake’s attestation papers show he was 27 when he signed them on Sept. 14, 1914 in Halifax, N.S.
After posting photos of the medals on Facebook, Legion members went to work sharing the post and trying to find the Bake family. A Ladies Auxiliary member did some research using her Ancestry account.
About two weeks after the post, MacNeil was contacted by the Bayfield Historical Society who had two uniforms of Bake’s son Leslie Bake in their possession for a Remembrance Day display.
Leslie served in World War II in France, Belgium and Holland.
The granddaughter of Ernest Bake, Margaret Clydesdale, was on hand for a presentation of the medals from MacNeil Monday afternoon in Bayfield, along with members of the Bayfield Historical Society.
When seeing the medals for the first time in decades, Clydesdale was choked up. "It's amazing; I'm overwhelmed."
She is unsure how the medals turned up in Corunna.
MacNeil, who is originally from London and is a Laurier Secondary School graduate, says it feels “extremely rewarding” to know the medals are back with the family.
“Every time I think about it, even now, I still get chills up and down my spine. These medals are precious. For me as a service officer, this is very fulfilling.”
He is also particularly excited that the medal presentation was in front of the Remembrance Day windows at the Bayfield Historical Society and with Leslie’s uniforms on hand.
“That blew my mind. When I got them (the medals), I thought, ‘If I can re-unite them on or before Remembrance Day.’ It came to fruition. It’s an absolute honour to be able to reunite them with the family.”
MacNeil will also be in London on Remembrance Day to deliver a cheque from the Ladies’ Auxiliary at his branch to provide funds for veteran beds at Parkwood Institute.