Senior Constable organises replica war medals for grieving family to replace lost originals

A senior constable has gone above and beyond her job description, assisting a grieving family whose war veteran father’s war medals were lost – by organising for replicas to be made.

In late 2019, Senior Constable Leanne Gearside – attached to Hawkesbury PAC – was allocated a job at a local nursing home, after a 97-year-old man had reported his war medals missing.

William Melling was a merchant sailor, who served with the Royal British Navy during World War II.

Mr Melling was awarded a clasp for his bravery during a rescue mission on June 7, 1944 – the day after D-Day – where he saved the lives of dozens of his fellow merchant sailors after their ship had been hit by a torpedo.

He relocated to Australia in the 1950s and spent the latter years of his life at a nursing home in North Richmond.

Senior Constable Gearside started making inquiries about the type and whereabouts of the medals alongside Will’s daughter, Brenda Melling, when he sadly passed away in January 2020.

When Senior Constable Gearside realised the medals wouldn’t be located in time for his funeral, she took her own initiative to organise four replica medals to be made, so the family could present them on his coffin.

Ms Melling was touched by the gesture and felt comforted that her father was offered a fitting farewell.

“That made us feel so appreciative of Leanne’s efforts. She did not have to go through all of that, do all of that for us, but she went the extra yard to help our family represent dad in the best way at his funeral.

“She understood what our family had been going through, she understood the emotions that were involved,” Ms Melling said.

Senior Constable Gearside said she felt honoured to be able to help the family in their time of crisis.

“From what I’ve learnt in my years of service, you never get used to losing a loved one you can only just get through it, so I thought if I can help this family in their time of grief, I was going to try my best to be able to do that.

“My understanding is they were put on his coffin that day with a photo of him wearing his original medals.

“I didn’t know this family to start with, but I would do it again and I would do it to anybody if they were needing help,” S/Cst Gearside said.

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