World War 2 service medals found by a baggage handler at Brisbane Airport have made their way back to their original owner in Oamaru.
The medals, awarded to Nettie Glass in 1946, had been lost after being passed down to a family member some years ago.
Mrs Glass (96), who now lives at the Observatory Village retirement home in Oamaru, spent four years in Burnham as a telephone operator in World War 2.
She was very surprised to be contacted recently by Medals Reunited founder Ian Martyn, who told her the lost medals had been found.
Medals Reunited was set up in 2014 by Mr Martyn, who reunites lost war medals with their owners, or their families.
He was contacted by a Qantas baggage services staff member who told him a set of medals had been found at Brisbane Airport on April 3.
The only clue he had to lead to Mrs Glass was a piece of paper dated November 11, 1946, and the name “Corporal Isabelle Jenette Ellis”.
After being awarded her service medals, Corporal Isabelle Jenette Ellis married and took her husband’s last name – and she was now more widely known as Nettie.
“So I had a bit of work to do [to find her],” Mr Martyn said.
He began by looking through old electoral roles and found two entries, one from Burnham Military camp in 1946 and one in 1949, where Mrs Glass was listed as living at Five Forks.
“I had no other avenue of investigation apart from that name, so I seized on that surname and any Ellises remaining in the Five Forks area.
“I made some calls and was eventually put on to someone else – who happened to be Roger Ellis, Nettie’s nephew.
“I was not expecting her to be alive, but she was at the Observatory Village .. bright as a button and lovely to talk to.”
Several years ago, Mrs Glass gave her medals to a family member – and they think the medals must have fallen out of luggage during recent travels.
“I was very surprised to hear of them, but it is a great job Ian is doing,” Mrs Glass said.
Military service during World War 2 had its ups and downs, she said.
She made some great friendships that had lasted a lifetime, but there was also an emotional toll of war.
On one occasion, a British former prisoner of war was at Burnham for rehabilitation, and Mrs Glass dialled through to his partner at home in the UK.
“He was allowed three minutes, but he only said one word – ‘Nancy’ – she presumably had no idea what had happened to him.
“Young ones today don’t realise what it was like, but it was like any other times – good and bad.”
Mr Martyn developed an interest in reuniting medals with their owners since he began looking for his great-grandfather’s medal.
“I didn’t even know that he existed until seven or eight years ago, because my mother was adopted, and I was the only one left on that arm of the family,” he said.
“Once I’d researched him, I started hunting around to see if there was anything [from his military career] in existence.
“While I was doing that, I was staggered by the amount of the medals that were being sold online.
“I started wondering how these medals were being sold off and people profiting from them, which they have every right to do.
“But I thought ‘what a shame that generations down the track would really hanker after that sort of thing’ and I haven’t been proven wrong, because I’ve continually been besieged by inquiries.”