Neil Douglas will forever be proud of both his grandfather Howard, and great-uncle Leslie, who were both decorated with Military Medals after serving in Villers Bretonneux, although it is an even rarer medal that has truly sparked his interest.
Howard, known as “Dick”, was recognised for one battle in particular which saw him continue to repair lines of communication under heavy artillery fire according to his service records.
He was twice knocked down, concussed and blinded by gas shells, but tore his gas mask off and carried on repairing the lines. He completed the job before assisting to dress a wounded soldier and get both of them back to a dressing station where he was patched up and returned to the battle.
It was that perseverance that also saw him renowned as one of the toughest competitors on a sporting field, and that is what Gunnedah’s Mr Douglas would like to find out more about.
While Dick Douglas died at the age of 46, among his belongings was a medal with the words 55th Battery 14th Brigade Rugby Premiers – France 1918 inscribed on it, with his Registration number on the back.
Mr Douglas believes there could be only 17 in existence.
“My grandfather didn’t talk much about it really, we just have the records of it that Dad had,” Mr Douglas said.
“Howard died at the age of 46 so my father didn't really get much of a chance to talk to him about the medals or anything else.
“But I think that there are only 16 other medals like it in Australia – I’d like to find out if anybody else has got one and get in contact with them.”
What Mr Douglas does know is that his grandfather certainly left a mark on the Gunnedah sporting landscape after he returned from France to become a grocer, starting his own business in 1920.
He holds photos of a big and burly Dick Douglas posing in a team shot of the Gunnedah Rugby Club in 1921, while many others have told him stories of his exploits.
“He loved his sport and was a pretty good cricketer apparently – I heard from some old blokes that reckoned he could throw a cricket ball from one side of Kitchener (Park) to the other.”
“Probably from throwing things in the war - they had to throw them a long way.”
Mr Douglas believes that the sporting competitions, such as the one in which this medal was one, must have been a relief for the soldiers at the time.
“They would have seen some horrors over there, it would have been a relief, in my mind, to get away from those horrible things and have a bit of fun,” he said.
“They did it pretty tough over there.”
There was also a third Douglas brother, Herbert, who was badly wounded at Lone Pine in Gallipoli in August 1915, alongside Herbert, who later went on to France.
Fortunately all three brothers did manage to return home to Gunnedah after the war.
Anyone with information in regards to the Rugby Premiership medal can contact Mr Douglas via the Namoi Valley Independent.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.