Maghull man turns to Labour MP in battle to get his grandfather

Bill Esterson and Joe Brown

A Maghull grandfather has turned to Labour MP Bill Esterson in his battle to get his own grandfather's wartime heroism recognised.

Joe Brown, 76, has been fighting for two years to get his grandad John O'Toole's war medals.

John O'Toole served in the Merchant Navy in the First and Second World Wars after joining up at the age of just 12. He was commandeered into national service during both wars.

He died in 1953 aged 61 of heart failure while in Egypt.

So far Joe has been able to successfully get the Atlantic Star, the 1939-45 War Medal, the 1939-45 War Star and the Italy Star for his grandfather's service in World War II, which accompany his World War I Mercantile Marine Medal and British Medal, but so far he has still been unable to get the African Star and Pacific Star awarded.

Despite the Medal Office's refusal to grant the medals, Joe is determined not to give in.

John O'Toole's medals and service cardsJoe said: "All through my life I was told about my grandad. So when I retired, I started researching my family history, even turning to the Births, Marriages and Deaths in the Liverpool Echo.

"As a family we had all of dad's medals, but no-one knew about my grandad's medals.

"I did the research and got onto the Medals Office to apply for my grandad's outstanding medals.

"But despite giving them the full service history and documentation for my grandad, they refused to give me the African Star and Pacific Star.

"We've sent all the information required to get the medals, but they still aren't going to give us the medals. They aren't accepting what we are sending them, saying they need the original documents before they can give us the medals. But the original documents are held in the National Archive and they can't be removed. Hence why we's sent them full scans of all the documentation they need.

"It's ridiculous because you are automatically eligible for the Africa Star if you are awarded the 1939-45 War Star. But still they refuse to see the logic."
John O'Toole's service card

Joe said the medals are a part of his family history.

Joe said: "I've been fighting for this for two years and I don't intend to give up now.  My grandfather deserves those medals for the service he gave to this country and my family has a right to have them because they are our history.

"Because he was drafted into service while in the Merchant Navy, there was lots of secrecy about where he was serving which made it quite difficult to track down exactly where he was. but I did it and provided all of the evidence, but still the Medals Office refuse to help.

"The correspondence I've had from the Natonal Archive is that they cannot understand why we still haven't been issued with the medals.

"I've not got much time left but I really want to sorting because this is my family history. When you think what my grandfather went through, you realise he deserve more respect than he is currently getting. I'm not going to give up on this.

"These medals are part of my family's history. And I want to pass them on to my grandchildren. These are an important part of my family history. If you haven't got a history, you haven't got anything."
John O'Toole's service card

After reading all of the correspondence between Joe and the Medals Office, Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson said he couldn't understand why the medals hadn't been issued.

Bill said: "Joe has painstakingly researched his grandfather's service history and has produced evidence to show that history. This has included copies of service books which are held in the National Archive. But because each page of these copies obviously doesn't carry John O'Toole's name then he isn't able to get them.

"I will be contacting the government minister responsible for war medals to call for an investigation into Joe's experiences and the experiences of others.

"If anyone else has had difficult experiences of this kind with the Medals Office, please contact me."

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