Bizarre twists of fate led to identity of honoured soldier

Sally Barton and Chris Nevin with the medal belonging to William Boor. Pictures: OX65183 Leah McLaren

Buy this photo Sally Barton and Chris Nevin with the medal belonging to William Boor. Pictures: OX65183 Leah McLaren

First published in News thisisoxfordshire: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Blackbird Leys and Greater Leys. Call me on 01865 425403

IT was dug up almost 40 years ago in grandfather Alan Francis’ garden.

And now, through a bizarre set of coincidences, a medal given to a First World War veteran has been reunited with its owner’s family.

Mr Francis, 78, came across the silver medal in 1976 when he was digging the topsoil in the garden of his home in School Road, West Hanney.


The medal

Inscribed with the name W.C. Boor, Mr Francis said he didn’t know what to do with it and so put it in a drawer.

Then in 1998, his daughter Sally Barton, 40, was talking to work colleague Chris Nevin in Cirencester, where she lives, and told him she was from West Hanney and that her parents still lived there.

Neither thought anything strange about the conversation until last Christmas when Mr Nevin, 47, learned that his father-in-law, John Boor, had spent part of his childhood in West Hanney.

He said: “I don’t know how, but I suddenly remembered that Sally had mentioned that she was from there.”

He took copies of his father-in-law’s photographs of the Lamb Inn pub in West Hanney, to show Mrs Barton, who in turn showed her parents.


The Boor family at the Lamb Inn pub in 1937

Mr Francis said: “We asked her who took the pictures and when she said the Boor family, we just knew.”

Mr Nevin’s father-in-law, John Boor, was the nephew of William Charles Boor, who served in the Royal West Kent 8th Division during the First World War.

William Boor survived the Battle of Loos, and went on to serve in the Battles of Somme and Passchendaele.

He returned to England and continued to live in West Hanney before his death in 1955.


William Boor, far right, with, back row, from left, George Boor, an unknown employee, Martha Boor and Fred Boor. Front: John Boor, Margaret Boor and an unknown friend in a picture from 1937.

John Boor, now 84, had lived in the Lamb Inn pub – run by his grandmother, Martha Boor – in West Hanney in 1937.

He and his family moved there when the building was renovated after the original thatched property had burned down in 1935.

Over the years the pub’s land was sold off for housing and in the 1970s Mr Francis and his wife moved in to the Lamb Inn.

Mr Nevin said: “The medal must have been lost in the fire, and maybe got dumped along with some of the old building’s rubble on the edge of their orchards.

“There should be another two medals, according to William’s military history, but those are still lost.”

Mr Francis added: “They did tell me there may be more medals in my garden, but I put a patio down years ago and it’s not worth digging all of that up. I’m thrilled the medal has gone to the right family – especially when we weren’t even looking for them.”

Mrs Barton said: “It’s just such an amazing coincidence. You couldn’t make it up.”

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