Museum receives First World War medals

Maureen Coulter, The Guardian
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Some rare medals belonging to an Islander who died during the First World War have come home.

Thanks to a generous donor in Scotland, they've gone from lost to found and now have a permanent home at the Prince Edward Island Regiment Museum.

The medals are considered uncommon, as they are part of a cavalry regiment, which tends to have fewer men, said Capt. Greg Gallant, curator of the museum.

"A cavalry regiment is about half of what an infantry battalion would be," said Gallant.

The medals belonged to Cpl. Thomas Warburton Hooper, of Charlottetown, who died near Ugny-le-Gay, France, on March 23, 1918.

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE GUARDIAN ARTICLE OF HOOPER'S DEATH IN 1918

Hooper fought with Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) and was one of approximately 6,800 Islanders enlisted in the First World War. Approximately 500 Islanders died in the four-year war.

Hooper was in Western Canada working when the war broke and promptly enlisted with the First Contingent at the age of 25 in Waverley, Sask.

He was then transferred to the Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) where he fought in France with that unit.

He spent three years in active service, taking part in practically every battle in which the Canadians were engaged.

Hooper was 29 years old when he died in the days leading up to the famous Battle of Moreuil Wood. He was buried in Chauny Communal Cemetery British Extension in France.

The museum received Hooper's three medals from John Cunningham of Scotland who purchased them at an auction back in November.

Cunningham was prompted to purchase the medals because his own grandfather was part of the same unit as Hooper and was wounded in action the day Hooper died.

"I don't know if my grandfather knew Corporal Hooper, only that they fought in the same wood in the same action and may have," said Cunningham in an email. "The fact that they were so close when their fates were decided prompted me to buy the medals."

Cunningham reached out to The Guardian in late December in a letter to the editor seeking Hooper's family in Charlottetown.

He decided to donate the medals to the museum as he considered himself only the "temporary custodian" of the medals and records.

Gallant said this donation was a nice gesture as it cost Cunningham over a thousand dollars to purchase the medals.

"I think it's excellent," said Gallant. "This guy doesn't know us. He doesn't know us from a hole in the ground. It's very nice of him to do that."

Hooper had four brothers and one sister. His brother, Fred, was also overseas and lost his eye while serving with No. 2 Siege Battery in France.

Gallant said they have searched for Hooper's immediate next of kin but have had no luck.

"He had a great-aunt that lived in Fredericton, but she is long gone and a great-nephew that lived in California, and he's long gone. All of the family is gone of that group."

Gallant said the medals will be on display at the regiment museum for all to see this piece of Island history.

Organizations: Prince Edward Island Regiment Museum

Geographic location: California, France, Scotland Charlottetown Ugny-le-Gay Western Canada Waverley, Sask. Chauny Fredericton

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  • Bryan
    January 27, 2016 - 07:44

    Great story, and amazing gesture on Cunningham's part. I hope some of Hooper's family will come forward and be able to see the medals at the museum.