Local war hero’s lost ID disc finds its way home at last

David BaileySouth Western Times
Nathan Jardine of Perth with Margaret Paterson at the grave of her grandfather Thomas Brooke Stanley at Bunbury lawn cemetery.
Camera IconNathan Jardine of Perth with Margaret Paterson at the grave of her grandfather Thomas Brooke Stanley at Bunbury lawn cemetery. Credit: David Bailey

A cemetery became an unlikely place of joy for a family as a decades-old mystery involving a local war hero was laid to rest by a former Burekup resident.

Following an emotional meeting at the gates of the Bunbury Lawn Cemetery, Nathan Jardine handed Margaret Paterson of Busselton a metal disc which at first glance resembled an old coin.

Tears welled up in Ms Paterson’s eyes as she held the rough-hewn piece of metal for the first time, and then read out the information stamped on it.

“TB-Thomas Brooke Stanley, 10th Light Horse,” she said, as the sun glinted off an artefact more than 100 years old.

That artefact is an identity disc that soldiers began wearing in the early 1900s. The discs went on to become the norm for Anzacs in the first years of World War I.

I can’t believe I am holding this, and such a tangible connection to the past. My grandfather wore this.

Margaret Paterson

It was a connection that seemed broken for as long as Margaret Paterson can recall.

It took a strange twist of fate, and involved a burglary, before the disc was returned to the former war hero’s descendants.

Thomas Brooke Stanley, was recognised for his bravery during the Gallipoli campaign and was awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal for holding a trench with among others Hugo Throssell.

Lt Throssell became the first West Australian man to earn a Victoria Cross during that action as he fought with Brooke Stanley at his side.

Thomas was the last man to leave the trench after more than 30 hours of fighting off wave after wave of Turkish soldiers during the Battle of Hill 60 at Gallipoli.

Thomas Brooke Stanley, who won the Distinguished conduct medal at Gallipoli fighting alongside Lt Hugo Throssell during the Battle of Hill 60
Camera IconThomas Brooke Stanley, who won the Distinguished conduct medal at Gallipoli fighting alongside Lt Hugo Throssell during the Battle of Hill 60

Nathan Jardine knew nothing of these heroic exploits until recently.

Mr Jardine, who now lives in Perth, was broken into and robbed before Christmas.

As he looked through his house to see what had been taken he noticed a box from his childhood days that contained a coin collection.

“I was going through my old coins when I noticed this disc with Thomas’ name and regiment on it,” Mr Jardine said.

“I decided to look it up on the Internet and found a local website with an email address, whom I contacted and explained my story.”

The site Mr. Jardine had chanced upon was Anzac Heroes run by local military historian Jeff Pierce.

“Jeff was excited and very helpful, he put me in contact with Margaret straight away,” he said.

“I was almost speechless when I heard from Nathan — I was astonished,” Ms Paterson said.

I would not have thought I would ever see this wonderful reminder of my grandfather, who I was so close to and who died when I was only nine.

Margaret Paterson

Mr Jardine, too, was surprised, finding such an item among his collection of coins.

“My family knew the Stanley’s, we farmed at Burekup, and they farmed at Brunswick, they often worked together or for each other,” he said.

Thomas Brooke Stanley's identity disc from World War I.
Camera IconThomas Brooke Stanley's identity disc from World War I.

After an uncle died, the family cleaned out a shed and came across a box sitting on a shelf that contained the disc.

“I was only young, but I reckon the disc was found on the farm and put in a box with the idea of returning it later, but got forgotten, and left on the shelf,” Mr Jardine said.

Something Ms Paterson says will not forget as she proudly holds the disc her grandfather wore, was his hand holding hers when the pair would wander the family farm.

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