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  • Mark Forsdike

L/Cpl Arnold Wilson

In these past days, I have made a happy reunion, finally bringing together the medals of a Suffolk Regiment solider with his papers and his photograph album that had been split up following his death over twenty years ago. Its been a long story spanning almost ten years, but it’s one that has a happy ending.

Firstly, back in 2013 I was given a set of Second World War medals by the Chairman of a branch of the Suffolk Regiment Old Comrades Association. The branch had been given them after the death of one of their members, Lance Corporal Arnold Wilson, who enlisted in 1933 and served pre-war in 1st Suffolk in England, and later transferred to 2nd Suffolk in India. The branch chairman wished them to go to a good home, and thought I should have them.

Curiously, the family looked to have retained one of his medals; the India General Service Medal (IGSM) as it was missing from the medal bar. I’m not sure as to what they wouldn’t have kept them all together, I can only assume that being silver they thought it was worth more than the others and retained it.

His medal group comprised of three campaign stars (1939-45 Star, Burma Star, France and Germany Star) along with the Defence Medal and the War Medal. It was always my intention to buy a replica IGSM and make the group whole again, but I never seemed to get around to it.

The allocation of a Burma Star and the France and Germany Star, indicated that Arnold must have served in the Arakan or at Imphal, before being repatriated home to serve in Europe - a not uncommon occurrence for an older, time-served man and indeed, many 2nd Suffolk veterans came home from Burma in early 1944, and joined 1st Suffolk in time for D-Day.

Then about three years later, his papers were offered for sale and I managed to buy them. They told of a fascinating service which saw Arnold becoming 2nd Suffolk’s ‘Battalion Saddler’ - being the only man trained to repair the all-important mule harness that was essential for transport in Burma, and of his serving in the Arakan and fighting at ‘Bamboo Hill’ in January 1944, before he came home the following month.

After this, he was sent to 1st Suffolk in Holland, joining them in October 1944, but he stayed just a fortnight with them, before he was transferred onwards to join 1st South Lancs in the same Brigade who desperately needed men following their battles at Venray earlier that month. It was with the South Lancs that he ended his service in July 1945 (having completed his 12 years service with the Colours).

Now the story moves on a couple of years to when I received an email from the same seller informing me that he now had his photo album and was I interested? The answer was of course yes and so now, medals, papers and photo album were back together - a remarkable achievement. The album was of his family and their homes in Suffolk and in Hampshire, and of his service in India with many familiar faces of regimental characters, but his IGSM was still out there and it had to resurface soon (if it hadn’t already been melted down for scrap).

Roll forward to last week and there on a well-known London medal dealers website, was the IGSM to Lance Corporal Arnold Wilson - it had survived!!!

Needless to say that despite stretched funds, it was swiftly purchased and has now been added to the remainder of his medals and artefacts. A good mate has put it back on the bar with the others and now it’s now all back together again. I’m chuffed to tribute all his mementoes again, but I can’t help wondering what else was lost, binned, or sold off from his days with the Suffolk Regiment?

Is there yet more to be found?


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