HUNTER historians are searching for families of two World War I soldiers who were not issued service medals, in the hope they can help have the honours posthumously awarded.
Yvonne Fletcher and John Gillam - authors of Untraceables: The Mystery of the Forgotten Diggers - are looking for relatives of Lance Corporal Keith Eric Griffin and Corporal Andrew Kennedy, who came from large families well known in the Hinton, Morpeth and Millers Forest areas.
Ms Fletcher said the authors hoped to help the soldiers' descendants apply to Defence Honours and Awards to request the unissued medals.
"This is families' heritage that is held by the government," she said.
"They are in these beautiful graves that are tended to right across the world and we venerate them on Anzac Day and say Lest We Forget and yet their families have not got access to these medals.
"It's natural justice - we need to see that done. There's a family at Sandgate whose mother was buried with medals because that's all she had left of her son."
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Lance Corporal Griffin of the 1st Battalion was born in Morpeth in April 1894 to Frank and Jeanie Griffin, nee Cameron.
His enlistment was finalised on August 30, 1915.
He was in Pozières when he received shrapnel wounds to the head between July 22 and 25, 1916 and died on July 29.
He is buried in Etaples Military Cemetery in France.
Corporal Kennedy of the 14th Machine Gun Company was born at Swan Reach Hinton in November 1887 to Andrew and Margaret Kennedy. He enlisted on June 14, 1915.
He was found to have tuberculosis, discharged as medically unfit in May 1918 and died at the Tubercular Hospital, North Head Sydney, on August 19, 1919. He is buried at Morpeth Cemetery.
Mr Gillam said the authors first came across the term 'untraceable' when writing the first of their seven books, about 128 men from Port Stephens.
Lance Corporal Griffin's file - and four others - was stamped with 'war medals to untraceable', meaning the soldier had no next of kin, or their next of kin couldn't be found.
Mr Gillam said they had since found 1216 WWI soldiers weren't issued medals for various reasons, including: their families were 'untraceable', or did not reply to correspondence; they or their families chose not the claim the medals; they were court marshalled, discharged and forfeited their medals, had died in institutions, or were underage when they enlisted.
Mr Gillam said medal issuing had been a "convoluted process" and the criteria for recipients started at widow, before moving to eldest son, eldest daughter, father, mother, eldest brother, eldest sister and so on, even if they "weren't worthy".
If a claimant was outside this, such as a friend, foster mother, or girlfriend - regardless of their listing as next of kin - they didn't receive the medals.
Ms Fletcher said their research found Lance Corporal Griffin's mother accepted two parcels of his personal items and photos of his grave, before she seems to have disappeared. She remarried in 1920.
Army Base Records wrote to her in 1921, sent her details to the press and tried to find where her war pension was being sent, but she wasn't receiving one.
They found Army Base Records wrote to Corporal Kennedy's mother in September 1921 about her husband's whereabouts regarding her son's medals.
Her husband had died in 1903 and she had died in 1919. When the records office wrote again in March 1923, the executor of his will, P Kennedy, said his possessions had been left to his sister, Catherine Kennedy of Millers Forest.
The office responded that a will had no bearing on the distribution of medals unless specifically mentioned.
It asked for the names of male relatives, but did not receive a reply. Mr Gillam said if the soldiers' families couldn't be found, institutions such as schools may like to apply for the medals and honour the soldiers.
The authors have helped Raymond Terrace Historical Society, Kurri Kurri and Auburn public schools successfully apply for local soldiers' unissued medals.
A Department of Defence spokesman said it was not possible to ascertain how many WWI medals remained unissued.
"As there are no surviving World War I veterans, it is not until next of kin apply for the medals that an assessment is conducted to confirm whether the medals have been issued or not."
He said 27 WWI medals had been issued in the past year to 16 veterans' families.
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