Toronto woman seeking heirs of First World War vet to return memorabilia

TORONTO — A east end resident has an old tin can full of First World War memories — the problem is they aren’t her own.

TORONTO — A east end resident has an old tin can full of First World War memories — the problem is they aren’t her own.

Shirley Allaway and her husband, Jim, are looking for the family of a deceased veteran of the conflict so they can return the medals, a birth certificate and even an old picture of what is presumed to be the vet all held for safe keeping in an aging Fry’s Pure Breakfast Cocoa can.

“We’re hoping at the very least to find these a good home,” Allaway, 62, said. “My kids aren’t going to want them and I don’t want them to end up in the garbage.”

The name on the birth certificate is Charles Audley Jeffs, born Sept. 14, 1889, in St. Mary, Shrewsbury, England.

The Library and Archives of Canada’s website confirms Jeffs did serve as a soldier in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the war.

And the regimental number matches the one pounded into the leather identification tags that are in Allaway’s possession.

Allaway said she believes Jeffs was a neighbour of her uncle, Thomas Holt, back in the 1980s in a downtown apartment building but that’s about all they know about him.

“(Jeffs) gave the medals to my uncle but he never spoke about him,” she said. “We don’t know anything more than what’s on this table.”

The tin can treasure trove passed on to Allaway’s mother after her uncle died and then arrived at Allaway’s house about six or seven years ago.

Several of the medals identify Pte. CA Jeffs as a member of the 2nd Battalion Canadian Machine Gun Corps.

Along with what appear to be some post-war badges and buttons — including one from the International Order of Odd Fellows — there are a few significant-looking medals.

One is marked on the front with “CEF service at the front” while on the back it warns “penalty for misuse $500 or six months imprisonment.”

Two medals have been preserved in plastic and both are mounted on ribbons.

One has the profile of King George V with the dates 1914-1918 on it and the other reads, “The Great War for civilization 1914-1919.”

If Jeffs has no surviving family, Allaway said she’d like to see them go to a place where they will be cared for and respected.

“I’m not sure where that might be at this point, maybe a museum,” she said. “I just know there has got to be a good place for them to go.”

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