A WORLD War One medal thought to have lain undiscovered on the moors above Skipton for decades has finally made its way home.

The medal was found by Kirk Humphreys when he was just a child half a century ago; he had been playing on the moors at the top of Shortbank Road with pals. He came across the service medal of 19-year-old Ennie Clarke who had fallen in the Great War when fighting in France.

And Mr Humphreys kept the medal for the next 50 years until, after a moving chain of events recently, he was able to return it to its rightful family.

The soldier was the great uncle of Skipton woman Carol Ayrton who told the Craven Herald she was shocked and amazed to be reunited with the medal.

Private Ennie Clarke, uncle to Silentnight company founder Tom Clarke, was killed in Thiepval, France, in 1917.

He was one of 16 children to parents Thomas Henry Clarke, a gas fitter, and Priscilla Clarke, of 20 Byron Street, Skipton.

Mrs Ayrton, nee Clarke, of Wharfedale Close, said she had been trying to research her great uncles who had died in WW1.

She said: “It didn’t help that ‘Clarke’ is spelt without the ‘e’ on the war memorial in the high street. But I did manage to get quite a bit about them through ancestral sites and it has been fascinating doing the searches.

“I’ve always put a tribute each armistice anniversary on my Facebook page but this year I decided to put a tribute on the Skipton Community Noticeboard with it being the 100th anniversary, and soon after was contacted by Kirk Humphreys. He said he thought he had Ennie’s medal.

“I was wary at first, wondering if it was a scam, and didn’t answer for three days. When I did he asked me for Ennie’s service number and when I answered 4777 he messaged back and said: ‘It’s coming home. It’s Ennie’s medal’.

“He said he had found it while playing on the moors at the top of Shortbank Road around 50 years ago when he was about 10 and had kept it ever since.

“It is a miracle it was found. And what is just as amazing is that Kirk has lived within 400 yards of me in Hurrs Road for the past 30 years - and had my great uncle’s medal all that time.

“I had to sit down and have a gin because I was so shaken.

“It was really emotional collecting the medal from Kirk and holding something that  had  been  given  to  the  family  for Ennie’s part in the war and which may have been lost forever had it not been for a little boy finding it and thinking it was money. 

“I’m so grateful that Kirk kept it safe all this time.

“How on Earth it got there in the first place, no one knows. Perhaps one of his sisters or brothers took it up there to show their friends and lost it.  Maybe Tom’s medal is there too because we’ve never seen it.

“I don’t want to let this one out of my sight now.”

Mr Humphreys said he was thrilled to have been able to give the medal back.

“It brought a lump to my throat,” he said. “Carol burst into tears because she was so overcome.

“I’d found it in the ground while playing on the moor above Shortbank Road.

“As kids we used to go up there a lot and go swimming at Jenny Gill reservoir and played near the waterfall.

“Being just a young lad I thought it was gold or money and took it home, cleaned it up and kept it safe, taking it with me when I moved to Hurrs Road. I did try and find out a bit about the E Clarke named on the side but records in Skipton have ‘Clarke’ spelled differently.

“Seeing the Facebook post on that noticeboard reminded me about it. I was amazed when the service number was the same. 

“I’m so glad it now has a proper home and I am proud to have been its guardian for the past 50 years.

“At the end of the day it’s Ennie’s medal and his family has it back.”

Ennie’s elder brother Tom, a former member of the Green Howards, and whom the Silentnight founder was named after, died in March 1915 after being wounded at Neuve Chapelle and brought to a military hospital near Southampton.

Ennie followed Tom into the conflict in the Duke of Wellington’s regiment, 2/6th Battalion, 62nd (2/West Riding) Division, and died in the trenches in France from a shell blast. His grave is in Thiepval.

Brothers Fred and Sidney fought in and survived the war.

Further details of the Clarke family and other local families during the Great War can be found in The War Memorial, a booklet produced by the Skipton Civic Society and Skipton Town Council.