A SEARCH is on to find the rightful heirs of a war hero after First World War medals were found.

Great Harwood man Michael Dowling discovered the medals amongst his brother’s belongings after his death a few months ago.

Medals and official letters addressed to a Private Richard Stewart, of Hosier Street, Blackburn were found at the home of father-of-four Tony Dowling, 63.

The British War Medal and the Victory Medal were discovered at the former engineer’s Great Harwood home along with a letter from the soldier’s commanding officer to Mrs Stewart, describing how her 38-year-old husband died in France in May 1917.

Michael enlisted the help of Rishton Royal British Legion to find the family of Pte Stewart but they were unable to make any progress tracing the medal’s rightful owners due to Data Protection laws.

Letters found with the medals are from the Imperial War Graves Commission, the War Office and the Manchester Regiment. The letter telling of the soldier’s death describes how he was in French trenches when a shell hit.

The former Brooke Bond’s Food forklift truck driver said: “I have no idea how they came to be at my brother’s house. They are obviously very special items and I just think they should be with the right family.

“My brother liked to collect unusual items but it’s just a mystery how he came by these. If this were my family, I would want to know all about these medals.”

A letter to Mrs Stewart from her husband’s commanding officer tells of his death.

It says: “He was on sentry duty in a trench when a light mortar shell dropped into the parapet beside him. It injured him severely, and he passed into unconsciousness almost immediately and died a quarter of an hour later.

“He has been in my platoon for a long time and I assure you we all share your loss. He was buried in a church yard behind our lines. I cannot tell you where until a later time.

“Living as we do in the trenches we get to know one another well. Knowing you and your husband as I do, I know what a heavy loss you have sustained.”

Anyone with information about the medals can contact emma.cruces@nqnw.co.uk or 01254 298 267.