The AJEX ‘Claim Your Medals’ campaign has reunited Jewish families with over 100 war and service medals lost or overlooked.
The campaign has identified and returned medals across 49 sets to families, ensuring the legacy of Jewish service. Eight cases are still being investigated.
The ongoing campaign encourages individuals to delve into family histories and claim well-deserved medals. It has been a remarkable journey of rediscovery with heart-warming case studies.
Among many remarkable stories Holocaust survivor Henny Franks celebrated her 100th birthday. Henny regularly attends Jewish Care’s Holocaust Survivors’ Centre who organised her special birthday party, where it took place. As part of the celebrations AJEX National Chair Dan Fox surprised Henny and presented her with The Defence Medal and War Medal 1939-45 that had been rightfully earned but never given.
These medals hold immeasurable sentimental value to the family, symbolising her service but also the indomitable spirit of resilience in the face of adversity.
AJEX member Paul Hyams is a retired RAF veteran with 31 years of service.
Paul’s quest to uncover his family’s military history led him to a remarkable discovery. After finding a photograph of his grandfather, Harold Crozier Hyams, he realised he would have been entitled to WWI and WWII medals. Thanks to the AJEX medals campaign, Paul was not only reunited with his grandfather’s WWI medals but also his Commonwealth War Graves headstone, ensuring that legacy of his grandfather’s service would continue to be honoured.
Paul said, “I am honoured to have served Queen and Country in the RAF, now my honour is doubled by having my grandfather’s medals.”
Paul received the WWII medals posthumously through an aunt as his grandfather died in 1945.
He said: “He was commissioned into the Army Pay Corp during WWII. His WWI medals were lost so I had replicas made. He was in the Durham Light Infantry. The only military photo I had was from WWII and he was wearing ribbons so they must have been from WWI. I found his medal award document in the archives on the internet. The medals are a blessed memory and I will honour him by wearing them at the AJEX parades.”
Not only have medals been reclaimed but has spurred people on to ask about war service.
Elliot Goodman knew his grandfather served in WWII. When his father, Bernard Goodman, visited from Israel recently, he passed on medals of great grandfather, Mick Goodman, who served as a Batman during WWII. Elliot will march for the first time in this year’s parade with sons Jonah, Aaron and Jake who will be wearing their other great grandfathers’ medals.
Charles Gershuny was in the Royal Navy and commanded a minesweeper. He was awarded the 1939-45 Star, Atlantic Star, Italy Star, Defence Medal and 1939-45 War Medal.
Charles’s granddaughter, Natasha, said: “The parade this year is going to be extra special, not only will our sons be wearing their great grandfathers medals but Charles paraded many years ago.
Charles’s son, Jonathan Gershuny, said: “My father’s medals were stolen and thanks to AJEX we now have them to continue his legacy.”
National Chair, Dan Fox commented: “Medals are iconic and a key visual reminder of the service veterans gave to secure our freedom and protect our society. It has been so meaningful to help families not only reclaim medals but learn more about their family history. Many of the research efforts have uncovered for the enquirers service records and paperwork that has added to peoples understanding of their family’s history. It’s been a niche but meaningful service we have provided, and one we plan to return to once the Chaplaincy Cards are digitised.”
As the number of Second World War and National Service veterans dwindles, families and descendants cherish their legacy through AJEX. The organisation hopes more first-time parade goers will march at the Annual Remembrance Parade & Ceremony on November 19th, 2023.
Fox noted: “Medals are personal and iconic artifacts of military service. For individuals and families, they are markers of commitment and bravery. As a community, they are collective badges of honour and pride in the Jewish contribution to our nation. It has been so meaningful to help families reclaim medals and learn more about their family history.”
The campaign has unearthed remarkable finds including a WWI Military Medal, BOAR commemorative medal, Cyprus General Service medal and Commemorative Medal of the Czechoslovak Army Abroad with VELKA BRITANIE bar.
To acquire replica medals, AJEX has negotiated discounts with medal minters. Visit www.ajex.org.uk/medals for instructions, including discount codes.
Full list of medals: www.gov.uk/guidance/medals-campaigns-descriptions-and-eligibility
Parade tickets: www.ajex.org.uk. There is no ticket required to spectate. AJEX 0208 2022323.