A METAL detectorist has reunited an American family with an heirloom belonging to their relative 74 years after he died fighting in the Second World War.
In June this year, Colin Murphy, a detectorist from Tenby, discovered a silver bracelet while scouring the grounds of Cresselly House.
After researching a series of numbers on the bracelet, 33020558, he discovered it was a serial number for American serviceman Albert E Coleman, of Beavertown, Pennsylvania, who died at the Battle of the Bulge in 1945.
Albert E Coleman’s bracelet was found in the grounds of Cresselly House.
“I knew the troops from America were stationed at Cresselly in the war. Hugh Harrison-Allen, the owner of Cresselly House, thought the soldiers had been billeted there as it was a flat piece of land,” said Colin.
He and his fellow detectorists had previously uncovered British coins dating from the early Victorian era to 1939 on the field and believed may have once been Cresselly village’s fair field.
“The bracelet was found in that area as well. I initially thought it was a local land worker’s bracelet from Cresselly but when I Googled it, I knew then it was a service number.”
Colin was able to find out the bracelet belonged to Albert Eugene Coleman after conducting research through American military records online.
He contacted the Snyder County Historical Society in Pennsylvania to help with his research.
The society was able to help him discover Albert’s eldest daughter, Nancy Shilling, was still alive and lived nearby.
When the bracelet was returned to Albert Coleman’s family, it was framed with a small American flag.
“It was unbelievable because she had never known her father. She was only 18 months old when he went to Cresselly House and then to France,” said Colin.
“He died right at the end of the war in the Battle of the Bulge. His body was repatriated five years later, she would have been five years old when his body was brought back home,” he added.
The Battle of the Bulge was one of the last major Nazi offensives on the Western Front of the Second World War, with the Germans fighting to stop Allied control of Antwerp.
It was the bloodiest battle for American forces in the Second World War, with an estimated 610,000 Americans taking part between December 1944 and January 1945.
Approximately 89,000 US soldiers were injured, of which some 19,000 were killed.
Hugh Harrison-Allen, owner of Cresselly House, where the bracelet was discovered.
With help from landowner Hugh Harrison-Allen and Esther Klinger of the Snyder County Historical Society, Colin was able to return the bracelet to Nancy Shilling, now in her 70s, and her eldest daughter.
A ceremony was held in the headquarters of the Snyder County Historical Society in July when Albert’s bracelet was reunited with his family after 74 years of being buried at Cresselly House.
The reunion was reported in the local press in America, with Colin mentioned for his part in having discovered the relic.
A picture of Albert E Coleman and a display about his time at war.
“One of the reporters interviewed me a few weeks ago; he sent the paper to me a few weeks ago. It was fantastic to see, but a bit surreal to be honest,” said Colin.
“It was nice to have found something with a bit of provenance,” he added.
Colin has been metal detecting for four years, after being introduced to the hobby by a friend.
The bracelet is not the first find he has been able to returns to the relatives of the owner.
In 2018, he discovered a gold and silver watch fob in a field in Tenby.
The object was engraved with the name W Bodill, which Colin discovered was also written on Tenby’s cenotaph.
The Bodill watch fob, found by Colin Murhpy in 2018. PICTURE: Colin Murphy.
After conducting research on local soldiers who fought in the First World War with help of Tenby museum, Colin was able to find a relative of Mr Bodill, still living in Tenby’s Zion Gardens.
“She was delighted and said she would send it to the soldier’s family as she married into the Bodill side,” said Colin.