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The World War I medals of Prosper William Sandral

Like many boys at Scotch over a century ago, Prosper Sandral was only here briefly: from 27 July 1909 to December 1909. His brothers Donald and Alex came here, as did a grandson and great-grandsons.

Prosper finds himself in this corner of Great Scot because he served in World War I, from 1916 to 1919. Beginning as a gunner in the 1st Divisional Ammunition Column Reinforcements, he was assigned to the 5th Field Artillery Brigade in France. He was wounded, but resumed service, and became a corporal shortly before demobilisation. Prosper became a banker at the Bank of Australasia, and died at Southwark, London, on 13 August 1962.

On 5 March 2015 his daughter, Mrs Pat Ritter, very kindly donated Prosper’s war medals, handmade identity disc and associated badges to the Scotch College Archives. The Archives is particularly grateful for them, as it has so few military artefacts. Most tend to be kept by families or sold.

In World War I, AIF identity discs (in more recent times known as ‘dog tags’) were two fibreboard discs, which did not last long if a body was buried and had to be later recovered. Accordingly, many servicemen made their own tags, including Prosper. He stamped his: ‘P.W. SANDRAL 32386 [his regimental number] PRES [Presbyterian] 13 BTY. A.F.A. [13th Field Artillery Battery, part of the 5th Field Artillery Brigade]’. Prosper put his tag on a chain which appears to have been worn on the wrist.

Prosper never wore his medals. They are still in their paper pouches in the cardboard box in which he.received them. The ribbons have not been affixed to the medals. The silver medal is the British War Medal for overseas service. The gold medal is the Victory Medal, for those who served in a unit in a theatre of war. The miniature medals were designed to be worn with evening dress, to be less obtrusive than the full-sized medals.

Prosper’s badges include a gold crown-topped Returned from Active Service badge. This form of badge was issued from 1914 to 1919 so that returned servicemen could show – while wearing civilian clothes – that they had done their duty and were not shirkers. The other badges are Returned Sailors & Soldiers Imperial League (now the RSL) badges. The organisation was formed in 1916. The larger of Prosper’s badges has a crown with the date 1920 wired to the top of it, indicating he was an early member.

Updated: 3 October 2016