Lost medals come home to Southwestern Ontario
The medals of a distinguished military doctor who served in two conflicts, thirty years apart, have been tracked and returned to Southwestern Ontario.
The accolades, dating back as far as 1885, popped up online and were purchased by retired members of the 1st Hussars Regiment.
The four medals represent the valour of Dr. Reil Hillier of Leamington. During much of his military career, he served with the Hussars.
Hillier’s story is recounted in newspaper clippings from late in his career. At that time, he was noted for his service as a front-line doctor during the First World War. He was in his 50s at the time.
Hiller nearly died while serving. Shipped home, he returned to service less than a year later.
While that alone deserves recognition, it is Hiller’s involvement in home-grown conflicts, three decades apart, that has elevated the interest of the 1st Hussars Museum at the Forks of the Thames in London.
“He has one medal that maybe one other person associated with the 1st Hussars would have, and that is the North-West Canada medal,” states Steve Liggett of the Museum Committee.
The medal was awarded to Hillier for service in the North-West Rebellion. It’s a conflict viewed through a different lens in 2021, given its impact on Canada's Métis peoples.
Yet, Retired Lieut. Colonel Joe Murray contends Dr. Hillier was there to save lives, not take them.
“We can honour his service to king, queen and country because he did what he thought was right,” he says. “And that can only be honoured because the medals came home.”
Beyond the North-West Canada Medal, the set of four includes the British War Medal, the Victory Medal and the Colonial Auxiliary Forces Officers' Decoration.
Two of the medals were tracked over the internet by Patrick Armstrong of Goderich. It’s a process he's completed over a dozen times before for other veterans.
However, this is the first time he's done it for the same regiment he served in.
Armstong also located a duplicate and replica medal to ensure Hillier’s set of four is complete.
He now hopes others will acquire medals lost over time and donate them to museums.
“There may not be families, and the only tangible, physical proof that these people existed are these medals,” Armstrong says.