The search for relatives of an Irish soldier who won two medals in the First World War has come to an end, with no relatives or descendants being found.
The Irish Examiner reports that a jacket was among a bundle of clothes donated anonymously to a charity shop in Kealkil, near Bantry, Co. Cork last year. A volunteer at the shop, Steve Roffe, found WWI two medals, the 1914-15 star and the victory medal, in the jacket pocket.
The medals were found to belong to Private William Patrick Ryan, and a major search for Ryan’s descendants was started by military and amateur historians from Ireland and Britain.
Ed Smith, the charity shop’s treasurer, was involved in one of the groups looking for Ryan’s relatives, while Terri Kearney, manager of the Skibbereen Heritage Centre, headed another group.
Richard Moles, an eminent British military historian, was able to establish from service records that Ryan enlisted in the 1st Battalion Royal Munster Fusiliers in the summer of 1915, when they were then based in Aghada, Co Cork.
The soldier would have fought in the Gallipoli campaign and after being evacuated through Egypt was then posted back to the Western Front in France. Ryan would later be involved in the Battle of the Somme, Battle of Guillemont, and Battle of Ginchy.
After the war, Ryan volunteered to dig up bodies left on the battlefields so they were given a proper Christian burial.
In March, Roffe told The Southern Star: “We now know that when the war was over Private Ryan went back again to the battlefields as part of the Labour Corp to help clear the areas of unexploded shells and of course the grisly job of finding and burying the dead."
During the Blitz on London during WWII, the War Office records section was destroyed, so more answers many never be found.
Indeed, Smith said that despite the information supplied by Moles, the research trail has gone dry.
“This is a real pity. We intend to keep up our research, but unfortunately so far we have exhausted every avenue to no avail.”