Belmont students seek to solve First World War medal mystery


WATCH: Students at a Greater Victoria high school are trying to find the family of a First World War veteran after his long-lost victory medal is found in a local scrapyard.

Countless Canadian soldiers and military personnel have lost their lives in service to their country and at École Belmont Secondary in Lanford, they’re paying tribute to the war dead with a Field of Honour.

Library assistant Trudy Court came up with the idea and asked the community to send in names of loved ones.

“I woke up the next day to 27 emails,” Court says. “They came at all hours of the day and night with people’s stories.”

But one of those emails contained a decades-old mystery. It was from Dan Miller of Sooke, who had found a First Word War victory medal a few years ago while scrapping cars and wasn’t sure what to do with it.

The medal, which is believed to be bronze, is engraved on the front with the words: ‘Medal for the Great War for Civilisation 1914-1919’.

On the side, it’s engraved with the solider’s name ? G.A. Doty of the 49th Canadian Infantry ? and his service number (435657).

Intrigued, Court and several students set out to find Doty’s family and solve the medal mystery.

“It’s very exciting to have and I’m really hoping we can find this family,” says Court. “It’s getting to the point now where we just have to know!”

After a little research and access to Doty’s 102-page service record, they learned George Alexander Doty was born in Ontario in 1897 and moved to Red Deer with his mother, Susan Doty, before enlisting in 1915 at the age of 18. He was shot in the jaw during the war and after just 30 days of convalescing, was sent back to the battlefields.

“His mother was listed as his next of kin but we learned there’s an astounding number of women named Susan Doty in Alberta!” Court says. “His mother’s maiden name is McKenzie and that’s really common so I thought, ‘oh gosh, this is way too big!’ It just seemed we could search for eternity and never really know.”

But they persevered and the more they searched, the more they learned.

“I think it’s absolutely amazing!” says Belmont teacher Chris Allen. “It opens up the students to an opportunity to actually see a piece of the past and to apply that to their learning.”

Allen, who teaches English and social studies, is even using it as part of his socials block this month.

“We talk about service, we talk about sacrifice, but when we do it we look at hard facts ? we look at numbers,” Allen says. “We don’t look at individuals and taking a look at individuals is important.”

Private Doty died December 22, 1948, and is buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Vancouver. His mother, Susan Doty, died in Penticton in 1940.

If anyone has information that could help solve the medal mystery, email Trudy Court at: [email protected]

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