Former accountant and World War II hero has medals presented to niece after decades in firm’s safe

French Duncan | 12 October 2018

The niece of a WWII Glasgow veteran has had her uncle’s medals presented to her after decades of being missing.

Colonel William I. French’s medals (a DSO, various campaign medals, and an OBE), which were won while he was a Lieutenant Colonel of the 1st Battalion, The Glasgow Highlanders, were found in the safe of Glasgow accountants French Duncan LLP four years ago when they moved offices and it is only recently that they discovered who his remaining living relative was and invited her to Glasgow to present her uncle’s medals.

Colonel French had been a partner for 36 years in accountancy firm French and Cowan (the earlier name of the firm that is now French Duncan) until he died in 1971, unmarried and with no obvious heirs. The medals had been left by the Colonel at the office for safe keeping and after his death remained there unclaimed.

Graeme Finnie, managing partner with French Duncan, explained: “When we discovered the medals we were determined to get them to their rightful owner, but this proved to be extremely difficult. We engaged a specialist in tracking down the beneficiaries of wills to find Colonel French’s living heirs and after about six months of research he found his niece Mrs. Helen Woods of Nantwich, Cheshire.”

As Mrs Woods said: “I had tried many times over the years to find where the medals had disappeared to. I had contacted the Ministry of Defence and even my Uncle Willie’s old regiment, the Glasgow Highlanders, to see if they had any record of the medals and where they had ended up, but I had no success. And then a few weeks ago I received a call out of the blue to see if I was the Helen Woods who was Lt Col French’s niece. I was delighted to confirm I was. I am so delighted at the kindness of the partners of French Duncan LLP who have gone out of their way to track me down and to return my uncle’s medals.”

Graeme Finnie says, “Lt Col French is clearly a big part of our firm’s history and we felt it was only right and fitting that we make sure his medals are returned to his family. It has taken a bit longer than we anticipated but I am delighted that we are now able to give these to Helen in memory of her uncle who bravely served his country, and this firm is proud to have been a part of his history”.

Mrs Woods and her daughter are attending a lunch followed by the presentation of the medals and will be shown round the new offices of French Duncan where her great uncle was one of the co-founders of the firm in 1902.

Click here to see Graeme's profile and contact details.



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