Family reunited with lost World War I medal found at Fife park

A Liverpool University lecturer and her father have been reunited with her great grandfather’s World War One medal, after it was found at a Fife park.

Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 4:05 pm
The family was reunited with the medal.
The family was reunited with the medal.

Staff at Silverburn Park were able to reunite the Liverpool woman with her great grandfather’s long lost 107-year-old medal after it was found on a bric a brac stall in the park.

The 1914 Star, or Mons Star, is a British World War One campaign medal for service in France or Belgium.

It was found on the stall being run by the Friends Of Silverburn Park (FOSP) on June 5.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The medal.

FOSP member Shona Smith realised its importance and quickly did some research online, where she found a blog written by Dr Lyn Marven who had been posting on a family history site looking for information about her great grandfather. Shona contacted Dr Marven, a lecturer in German at Liverpool University, who confirmed it belonged to her great grandfather Jesse Jestico Marven who was born in Essex in 1889 and died in Leven in 1956, whom Dr Marven was researching for her family tree.

Park staff were alerted to the medal when Dr Marven sent an email to them to ask about getting the medal back.

Operations manager Martin McDonald got in touch with Dougie Saunders, of FOSP, whose sister-in-law was visiting Leven from the Liverpool area at the time.

“Dougie’s sister-in-law happened to have been visiting from Liverpool and recognised the name so she delivered the medal back to Lyn,” explained Martin.

“I realised that the chances of someone here knowing the owner of the medal were extreme but amazingly we found them. It is a wonderful coincidence and another example of how Silverburn Park brings people together.

"It’s heritage and history has interwoven many lives.”

“My sister-in-law Helen Paterson, who stays in The Wirral, was visiting Leven at the time of the medal being identified and we arranged for her to take it back to Lyn and her father in Liverpool,” explained Dougie.

Lyn is the great granddaughter of Jesse Jestico Marven, who was born in 1889 and died in 1956.

He was born in Plaistow, Essex, and in 1909 signed up for the Royal Navy. In 1913 he signed up for the new ‘air service’ and transferred to the Royal Fleet Reserve, which became the Royal Naval Air Service. At the end of the war he transferred to the RAF. He did some of his training at RAF Leuchars, where he met his wife Ann from Leven.

Lyn’s dad, Pete, was one of nine grandchildren and remembers JJ Marven. Pete was one of three boys who grew up in Leven. He moved to England in 1980 and now stays in Preston.

Pete said: “It was quite strange. When my grandfather died the medals were distributed amongst his siblings. We knew where three were but two were missing so it is a relief to see this one back in the family. Grandad had five medals and we knew two were missing but we couldn’t trace them. The whole family stayed in Leven and I think they all died in Leven so the fact that it was found there was not surprising but it is surprising that it has turned up after all this time.”

Helen Paterson handed over the medal to Lyn and Pete at the war memorial in Liverpool.

“It was quite emotional to have it handed over to me in the old bombed out church in Liverpool,” said Pete.

“I felt that I hadn’t dressed for the occasion. I wasn’t ready for it. It was a momentous moment and I do not think I was prepared for it.

Mr Marven, who just turned 75, said some of the stories about his grandfather included being the first and only person to fly under the Forth Rail Bridge and also to have landed his plane on Leven Thistle Golf Course to see his wife.

The Marven family home in Robertson Avenue, Leven, is about to be sold by the last member of the family to live in the town which will end a 100 year association with the area.

However, they plan on visiting Silverburn Park in July and hope to find out more about the medal.

“I don’t think we would have known there was a missing medal and the fact that we got it back was fantastic and that was thanks to so many people at the park,” said Lyn.

"Silverburn Park staff were incredibly helpful. It was a lovely connection for my Dad who grew up in there until he went to university. We left in the 1980s, but my uncle still owns the house we grew up in.

“My Dad was overwhelmed to get his hands on something that belonged to his grandfather. There were rumours that he was one of the last people to fly under the Forth Rail Bridge, and I would believe it too as my uncle still skis aged 70. We do not know how it came out of the hands of the family. Maybe someone will fill in the missing piece of the puzzle if they read about it in the paper?

“I’m just so thrilled to get my great grandfather’s medal as it means a lot to me and my family and it is so amazing that the park staff were able to get it back to me here in Liverpool. I would be keen to hear from anyone who knows of him.”

Jesse was working as a dock labourer in March 1909 when he signed up with the Royal Navy for five years and served initially as a stoker. He served on various vessels (Essex, Hindustan, Seahorse, Actaeon, Hermes) and shore bases (Victory II, Nelson, Pembroke), working his way up to Petty Officer

(4th class) by 1916.

In 1913 he was transferred to the Royal Fleet Reserve in Portsmouth, home to the newly formed Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). Jesse was part of Drake Battalion that went to Belgium at the start of World War One, but was transferred to the Central Air Office at the end of 1914.

He was issued with the 1914 star. Jesse continued in the air service until the end of the war and was transferred to the RAF when the RNAS and RFC were merged in April 1918.

He continued in service with the RAF until 1921.

Jesse married Ann Kinnear Houison in Edinburgh on 4 February 1914.

It is thought he spent time prior to 1914 at RAF Leuchars, which the RFC used as a Naval Fleet Flying School. He may also have spent time on HMS Jackdaw at Crail, which was also used for RFC training, or the Turnberry aerodrome in Ayrshire.

Jesse and Ann continued to live in Leven and had four sons and one daughter (two of whom survived into the 21st century), including Dr Marven’s grandad, also called Jesse, born in 1917.

Jesse Jestico died in 1956 at the age of 67.