Okanagan couple hopes to return lost Memorial Cross to veteran’s family

Vernon resident Heather Neill found this Memorial Cross medal in a discarded jewelry box near her home years ago. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Neill found the jewelry box behind the Petro-Canada station on the corner of 43rd Street and 25th Avenue in Vernon. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Also in the jewelry box was a British Empire Service League Canadian Legion pin. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
A photo of Clifford Marvin Bingham, submitted for the project Operation Picture Me. (Veterans Affairs Canada)

A Vernon couple is hoping to connect with the family of a Second World War veteran after finding his Memorial Cross medal in a discarded jewelry box.

Heather and Brian Neill didn’t quite know what they had stumbled upon when they found a jewelry box behind the Petro-Canada gas station on the corner of 43rd Street and 25th Avenue in Vernon some years ago. The wooden box was tipped on its side and contained only a few items, most of which appeared to be broken.

“Nothing really looked very valuable,” said Heather. “But we brought it home anyway and then we took it to the RCMP, and they said we’d be better off trying to find an owner ourselves.”

“Automatically we thought it had probably been stolen in a break-in or something like that, and whatever was most valuable in it was taken,” said Brian.

As it turned out, there was one valuable the alleged thief hadn’t noticed, and which the Neills themselves didn’t notice until years later.

One day Heather was looking through the box when a coin-sized metal cross caught her attention.

“I just noticed one day that it was not just a trinket,” she explained. “The cross looked like it meant something to somebody.”

READ MORE: Armstrong war veterans remember fighting for ‘best country in the world’

She then noticed what was engraved on the flip side of the medal:

F.O.

C.M. Bingham

J22033

After doing some research and getting in touch with Veterans Affairs Canada, Heather learned that she’d found a Memorial Cross bestowed to the family of Flying Officer Clifford Marvin Bingham upon his death in 1943.

Bingham – son of Lieut. Col. William John Bingham of Winnipeg – had served in the Royal Canadian Air Force in the Second World War. He was 22 years old when he died.

Bingham was commemorated at the Runnymede Memorial in Surrey, U.K. His name is inscribed on the Bomber Command Memorial Wall in Nanton, Alta.

The Memorial Cross medal – also known as the Silver Cross – is typically threaded with a purple ribbon. It is granted to the mother (if living) or the widow of a Canadian Forces member who died as a result of his or her service.

In an email to the Neills, Veterans Affairs said they could not to get in touch with the family the medal belongs to, since privacy legislation prevents the department from doing so.

The Neills made several attempts to find the owner of the jewelry box around the time they found it, to no avail. But having learned about the Memorial Cross, they’re hoping they’ll have better luck this time around.

“I can imagine it must mean a great deal to somebody,” said Heather.

Anyone with information regarding the medal’s proper owners is invited to get in touch with the Neills by emailing heatherbeverly@icloud.com.

READ MORE: Bulldog returned safe to Vernon owner


Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
Email me at Brendan.Shykora@vernonmorningstar.com
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