Newspaper article Daily Examiner (Grafton, Australia)

Legacy of a Champion

Newspaper article Daily Examiner (Grafton, Australia)

Legacy of a Champion

Article excerpt

Byline: Clair Morton Clair.Morton@ dailyexaminer.com.au

AT THE age of 20, Grafton man Thomas George Roy Champion was shot in the head on the shores of Gallipoli.

His critical wounding on the morning of that fateful date of April 25, 1915, and his subsequent death on the hospital ship Itonus two days later, meant his parents later received a Dead Man's Penny in remembrance of his service with the 9th Australian Infantry Battalion.

It was one of four commemorative medallions that somehow ended up at the Grafton RSL and now, more than 100 years after his death, it has been returned to the family.

When Beryl Stevens and Ann Marsh read separately an article in The Daily Examiner last month about the Grafton RSL sub-branch's search for the rightful owners of the medallions given after the First World War, they immediately recognised the name of one man -- Thomas Champion, known to friends and family as Roy.

Ann, who has been documenting her family tree for years, recognised him as a relative of her husband Kelvin, on his father's side, while Beryl's connection to him came through her grandmother, who was Champion's aunty.

The distant relatives had never met until they came to collect the penny at the Grafton RSL sub-branch office on Tuesday, but both have memories of visiting Roy's mum as children.

"I wondered why his mother Annie never had the medal, but she would never accept the fact he was dead," Ms Stevens said.

"As she got older she got a bit of dementia and I can remember going up to her place as a child with my mother and grandmother, and she used to call out to anyone going along the street, 'Roy Roy, come and see me'.

"He was an only child, and I just surmise she wouldn't accept (the penny) because she didn't think he was dead."

Inconsistencies in messages received by his parents around the time of his death also gave them hope their only son had been taken prisoner in Turkey. …

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