Royal Marines Museum: A Century of Separation

Two medals have been reunited after 100 years, following a query by a medal collector. The museum has over 8,500 medals in our collection which means the curatorial team often gets medal-related enquiries. Recently we were contacted by a collector to see if we had a medal to a particular Royal Marine in our collection. This led to a remarkable reunion of two medals originally awarded to the same man.

The Royal Marine in particular was a Private Francis Toole, who served in the Marines for 21 years, 17 of which were at sea. During the first Burma War, he was aboard the sloop Liffey and he took part in the operations on the coast of Syria in 1840. During his service he was eligible for two medals; the Army of India Medal with clasp Ava and the Naval General Service Medal with clasp: Syria.

Private Toole’s Army of India Medal was purchased in 1908 by the officers of the Royal Marine Artillery for their medal collection kept here at Eastney. It wasn’t known then what had happened to the Naval General Service Medal. When medal collector and amateur historian Jon Cray bought the Naval General Service Medal at auction in New Zealand, he didn’t know the museum held the other half of the group. Having been contacted by Jon, the museum jumped at the chance at reuniting the medals that had been separated for over a hundred years.

It isn’t the first time Jon has been able to reunite medals. He has happily reunited an Indian Mutiny medal with the recipient's great great-grandson and a coastguard's long service and good conduct medal to his great great-granddaughter living in Canada.

Jon said,

“I love the research of the men behind the medals and discovering the part they (and their families) played in British naval and military history.

I visited the RM Museum back in 2010 and was astounded by the great medal collection on display (especially the VC collection) - one of the greatest medal collections in the country. I'm now looking forward to visiting the Museum again in the near future to see Francis Toole's pair on display.”

The medals are now in display in the museum medal room.

HMS Hermes returning from the Falklands