AN ARMY memorabilia collector is hoping to re-unite a First World War service medal with its recipient's living relatives.

Rifleman James Hughes, of Chepstow, died on the battlefields of northern France on February 14, 1917, though his body was never recovered. His name appears on the war memorial in his hometown, and on the Thiepval memorial in Somme, France.

Now, Barry Duke, a military collector from Swindon, hopes to return Rifleman Hughes' British War Medal to any relatives still living in the Chepstow area.

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The medal was awarded to all those who gave service in the First World War from August 1914, when the British Empire declared war on Germany; to the Armistice of November 1918.

Collector Mr Duke, 71, came into possession of the medal a few years ago, as a gift from a volunteer colleague at the Jet Age Museum in Gloucestershire.

He said his extensive military collection already included gas masks, helmets, shells, and deactivated rifles at the time he was given the medal.

"[My colleague] also gave me an identity bracelet, and an officer's whistle which would have been blown when soldier's went 'over the top,'" Mr Duke said. "I cleaned the medal up and saw the name on the side, so I got my brother to run the details through the computer."

After finding out about Rifleman Hughes, and his Chepstow roots, Mr Duke said he was keen to try and return it to the soldier's family.

"I think it should go back where it came from," Mr Duke said.

Rifleman Hughes was a member of 12th Battalion, the King's Royal Rifle Corps. He died on Valentine's Day, 1917.

The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme bears the names of 72,337 British and South African servicemen who died in battles in the region between 1915 and 1918, but whose bodies have no grave.

The inscription on the memorial reads: "Here are recorded names of officers and men of the British Armies who fell on the Somme battlefields July 1915 February 1918 but to whom the fortune of war denied the known and honoured burial given to their comrades in death."