BATTLE WON: Kelvin Johnston fought for his great uncle's war medals.
BATTLE WON: Kelvin Johnston fought for his great uncle's war medals. Sophie Lester

No surrender in medal fight

IN 2004, Kelvin Johnston began campaigning to have his great uncle's war medals issued.

Twelve years on and the four medals are safely in his possession, 75 years after his great uncle Joe Egan was killed in battle.

Mr Johnston said his aunt in Warrnambool - Mr Egan's oldest living relative - had originally received the medals in November last year.

But after an arduous battle, the Ballandean resident said he was happy to finally have them in his possession.

"Joe was killed in Tobruk in 1941 when he was just 24," Mr Johnston said.

"He died from a shell explosion. He was considered missing for some time by his family until another guy he had served brought home his rosary beads and bible he had on him.

"I discovered my family had never received his service medals, even though his medal slip had been archived to say they had been issued.

"I had to go through the process with Honours and Awards in Canberra to get them.

"It took 12 years and I nearly gave up, but the saying of the Rats of Tobruk 'no surrender' was what I took on board."

Following an independent review of the case, the family were found to be eligible for a duplicate set of the 19-39-45 Star, The Africa Star, the War Medal 1939-45 and the Australia Service Medal 1939-45.

The medals were sent to Mr Egan's niece last month, 75 years after her uncle died in battle.

With the battle for Joe's war medals now over, Mr Johnston said he had taken measures to pass them down through the family.

"I'm glad to finally have them," he said.

"My two seven-year-old twins are in line to get them if anything happens to me.

"Doing all of this meant that I spoke with relatives in Victoria that I otherwise wouldn't have stayed in contact with.

"I'm glad to have gone through it to at least stay in touch with them.

"I'd encourage anyone else who has a relative missing war medals to do the fight - it can be won."

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