Jocelyn and her mother Betty at her 92nd birthday party.

Peterborough woman finds new family after being reunited with grandfather’s World War One medals by stranger

A Peterborough woman has found a whole new side of her family after being reunited with her grandfather’s World War One service medals by a complete stranger.

Jocelyn Trent, who lives in Netherton, received a message on Facebook from Adam Simpson-York earlier this month in which he informed her that he brought her grandfather’s medals from eBay and that he wished to reunite her with them.

Adam brought the medals for just £35 specifically with the purpose of returning them to his family and spent hours trawling through resources such as the National Archives and ancestry.com to track down relatives of the Sharman family.

Charles Leonard Sharman, known as Len, was born in Peterborough in 1897 and initially lived at 1 St John Terrace, Walpole Street, the area now forms part of Bourges Boulevard.

In 1914, while living with his six siblings in Crown Street, he joined The Royal Garrison Artillery and was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal for his service during the First World War between 1914 and 1918.

The news came as a particular shock to Jocelyn as she was completely unaware of his military connection.

She said: “When Adam first contacted me, I was reluctant. What he said didn’t make any sense to me, I wasn’t aware of any family members that served in WW1.

“I only knew that he spent 40 years working on the railway. My mum (Betty Bailey) never used to talk about the family due to there being so much sadness with young siblings dying and my grandmother died during childbirth.

“It’s all really overwhelming at the moment but the overarching feeling when the medals arrived on Friday morning was that something part of my family history had finally come home after 107 years.”

Adam, who works as a postman in Ipswich, hit upon the idea of trying to reunite families with their lost medals in the Christmas period after having a longstanding interest in genealogy.

He said: “I was a bit bored over Christmas and I’ve always liked looking into family trees so I decided to buy some random medals and see if I could reunite them.

“All I had to work with was two initials, a surname and a regiment number and from there that led me to national archives, ancestory.com, military records and lastly Facebook.

“That was actually the hardest part, getting Jocelyn to message me back or to accept my request, I had to go through one of her friends in the end.

“She was so taken aback by what I was telling her, her excitement was just on another level. I’ve certainly done what I set out to do and it may have even changed her life.

“It was funny at the Post Office when they asked me the value of the package, well to me it was £35 but to Jocelyn, you can’t put a price on that.

Jocelyn added: “I really want to thank Adam, I couldn’t believe the compassion, the drive and the willingness he showed in going that extra mile for a complete stranger for no personal gain.”

Adam was able to track down Jocelyn after finding her second cousin Rob Sharman on ancestry.com. Rob was born in Peterborough and shares a passion for researching genealogy.

He now lives in Loughborough but has spent many years researching his own family tree and was able to point Adam towards Jocelyn thanks to his research but the pair had never previously spoken and Jocelyn was unaware of his existence.

Once connected, Rob was able to inform Jocelyn that her grandfather’s military service was not the only family history she didn’t know about.

He informed Jocelyn that there were 22 second cousins on the Sharman family side that she had no idea about, 18 of which are still alive and a handful of them actually live in Peterborough.

Rob said: “I’ve been looking into my family tree for many years and that’s how Adam found me.

“I thought it was a wind-up at first but we got chatting and I helped to point him Jocelyn’s way and now we have been able to have our first ever conversation this week.

“It was great to be able to tell her that there are relatives in Peterborough and in fact we have found out that my father (her first cousin) lived in a care home just yards from her house. Unfortunately though, he died at age 100 in April but we have all vowed to meet up and reminisce when the pandemic is over.”

The medals arrived at Jocelyn’s home on Friday morning (January 29) and will join her extensive collection of family heirlooms, owing to both her father and late husband’s military connection.

Her father Norman Bailey, who was a respected Policeman in Peterborough for many years, served in the Second World War and survived being captured by the Germans and sent to the Stalag 17A Prisoner of War Camp in Austria.

Jocelyn has his prisoner of war diaries, which recount his times being held captive, including spending Christmas Day with just one tangerine to eat.

Her husband Ronald, also served in the US Air Force until his death in service in 1999. He was buried will full honours and Jocelyn received a certificate of appreciation at the White House from then president Bill Clinton.

She said: “For me, the whole thing has been really overwhelming especially because I have very little family now that my mother passed in 2016 and my daughter lives out in America.

“I only knew about my mother and an uncle named Sharman, who lived to 102, so finding out I have so many cousins and that so many live here in Peterborough is just unbelievable.”

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