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Peter Romanovsky is hoping to return a French language book with the family of World War 1 soldier William George Milford who died in battle on October 4, 1917.

Peter Romanovsky is on a mission to see a dead soldier's "relic" returned to relatives.

The soldier at the centre of the Huntly man's quest is William George Midford who died in The Battle of Passchendaele on October 4, 1917. 

Romanovsky said Midford's French language book was stowed away in a box of books he bought at Auckland auction house Cordys.


On Passing the New Menin Gate, by Siegfried Sassoon, inspired Peter Romanovsky to take action.

A person called T J Dale owned the box beforehand, and inside the cover of the book it had a note saying it was passed on to him from Midford before he went to battle. The box only sparked Romanovsky's interest as there was a poetry book on the top, so he packed away the rest.
That was a few years ago and it wasn't until this year, the centenary of the battle, that the language book re-surfaced. Archives from the Auckland War Memorial Museum state that Midford's sister Mrs Ernest Brown was living in Feilding. And his medals were passed on to his brother Henry Blackett Midford of Taumaranui in 1923. A few months ago Romanovsky started his search but it came to a halt after he fell ill. "Otherwise I would have driven down to Feilding myself," he said.
"I knew a bit about the battle but fate brought me the box." He almost threw the book away as it has fallen apart and the pages were scattered in the box.
But his search to return it to the family was inspired by a poem written by Siegfried Sassoon called On Passing the New Menin Gate.
The poem talks about the ultimate sacrifice the soldiers made and the tribute they received wasn't worth their death which hit a "raw nerve" with Romanovsky. Based on records, Midford was conscripted and Romanovsky came to the conclusion that he wasn't stable enough to handle the war as he attempted to be excused.
"I think poor Midford needs to be remembered." My dream was that his book, the last relic of William George Midford, would be returned to his family, it'll be lovely if that could be done."
Huntly RSA treasurer Frank McInally helped research records through the RSA database. 
"It's a great idea, especially when it coincides with the centenary of Passchendaele." He said it was quite rare to find memorabilia from that battle and he thought it would be a "great story" if the family was found.

website here © 2017 Fairfax New Zealand Limited

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