• Mike

A Medal Comes Home

Updated: Jun 8

More than 100 years after WW1, an artifact is reunited with family

A Medal Comes Home
Robert Paterson McHoul & Robert Gordon McLaren

This is a story that evolved from several seemingly disjointed and unrelated pieces.

Years ago various family members had heard several stories from my grandfather Robert Paterson McHoul about a WW 1 friend. We had heard that Robert McHoul and his friend, who we now know was Robert Gordon McLaren, were in a foxhole near Vimy Ridge when Robert McLaren was killed. Until recently none of us knew anything about Robert McLaren.

However, this story, revolves around a lapel badge (medal) that somehow came into my grandfathers possession.

As I was sorting through some ancestor artifacts I came across some war medals. I became aware that it was a practice for the individual’s service numbers to be inscribed on the edge of many medals and lapel badges. My grandfather’s service number was 53871 and there were some medals that clearly had that number. However, one medal had the service number 180860 and the search began.

The first thing I did was some research on this “For Service at the Front” badge. The badge is listed as an Army Class A Badge that was awarded to members of the CEF (Canadian Expeditionary Force) who served at the front in WW 1.

I then began trying to find who this badge belonged to. I started by accessing the Library and Archives Canada website which has a wonderful repository for Canadian Military (1). I entered the service number 180860 and up popped Robert Gordon McLaren’s service record (2). So, who was this man? Upon further research, it turns out that Robert had been fatally killed, April 18, 1917, on the battlefield in France, likely during the battle of Arras (3) which encompassed the famous battle of Vimy Ridge.

Maybe someone else is researching Robert’s family?

I accessed several of well known genealogy websites such as Family Search and Ancestry. Inside Ancestry, I discovered someone, who will remain anonymous in this story, who had Robert Gordon McLaren’s name in their family tree; I immediately contacted them. I received a response and it turns out that my new contact’s mother has maintained correspondence with Robert McLaren’s niece for some time and would be quite happy to see this artifact.

So, we continued our dialogue and made arrangements to return the badge to the family. It turned out that we only had to drive about 1 hour each to a meeting place such synchronicity! I am very happy to report that Robert McLaren’s badge has been returned to the family this past summer.

It always amazes me when stories like this develop. So many little seemingly disjointed pieces and suddenly all becomes clear. We may never know how Robert McHoul came to have Robert McLaren’s badge, but at least it has returned home.


I have included a link to Robert Paterson McHoul’s service record for your reference.


1 https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/genealogy/Pages/introduction.aspx

2 https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=pdf&app=CEF&id=B7018-S027

3 https://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/memorials/overseas/first-world-war/france/vimy/battle

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