A rare collection of war medals, believed to be one of most important in recent Australian military history, has been unearthed in the vaults of a branch of the National Australia Bank in Bowral, NSW.
The century-old medals decorating the service of Australian military figure John Macquarie Antill were discovered during a routine audit of unclaimed items at the branch’s safe custody centre.
Australian John Antill, a Major General at the time of his retirement, is best known for leading the charge of The Nek, at Gallipoli, on 7 August 1915. The order by Antill led to the battle most memorably depicted in the 1981 film Gallipoli.
Antill’s medals were found by Bowral Branch Manager Kim Cross in a 100-year-old soldier’s trunk, which hadn’t been accessed since 1968.
The historic contents included:
• a Companion of the Order of Bath
• Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George
• The Queen’s South Africa Medal with seven clasps (Boer War)
• 1914-15 Star (Gallipoli)
• British War Medal and Victory Medal (WWI)
Mr Cross said the NAB team was astounded to the have unearthed such a valuable collection.
“The old soldier’s box had long been a mystery in the branch, and we were just in awe of the items that were inside and the condition they were in,” he said.
Other contents of the trunk included Antill’s wrist watch, a pocket watch, a match box belonging to his brother Guy Francis Antill and a 1937 Sydney Mail article on the Antill family.
Glyn Llanwarne OAM, whose organisation Lost Medals Australia helps to reunite war medals with relatives, said the collection was undoubtedly the most important he has dealt with.
“Every now and then something exceptional comes our way,” he said.
Llanwarne last week helped NAB to reunite the medals with Antill’s great grandnephew William Macquarie Antill and his mother Alison Antill at their home in Sydney. The Antill family will now decide on the most appropriate place to house the collection.
NAB’s Safe Custody services are used by customers to store locked boxes, safe deposit boxes and other secure items.