Recognition at long last

Finally honoured: Warrnambool's Private Joseph John Egan, pictured on the left, died while serving in Tobruk during World War II. His great-nephew Kelvin Johnston has been fighting for his medals to be reissued since 2004.

Finally honoured: Warrnambool's Private Joseph John Egan, pictured on the left, died while serving in Tobruk during World War II. His great-nephew Kelvin Johnston has been fighting for his medals to be reissued since 2004.

The family of a Warrnambool war hero are “jubilant” after medals he earned in World War II were finally reissued by authorities after a long fight.

Private Joseph John Egan was killed by a shell in 1941 as he fought in the Siege of Tobruk in Northern Africa alongside his brother Lawrence.

The soldier’s great-nephew, Kelvin Johnston, said he discovered Private Egan’s war medals were never received by his family, and he had been fighting to have the issue remedied since 2004.

Mr Johnston’s Warrnambool-based aunt, Patricia McConnell, received the medals and a letter from the Department of Defence earlier this week. 

“We’re jubilant as a family as to what’s occurred,” Mr Johnston said.

“Be persistent if you come up against resistance. Persistence beats resistance.”

Private Egan earned four medals as part of his service in the 2/23rd Battalion, part of a group known as the Rats of Tobruk.

In 2009 the Department of Defence recommended the medals be reissued, but the decision was reversed in 2010.

A letter sent to Mr Johnston from the department’s honours and awards director Margot Kropinski-Myers confirming the reissuing of the medals described the 2010 decision as “very regrettable”.

“The medals that were earned by your great uncle for his service during World War II are now with your family and can be treasured as a representation of his service to this country, for which he paid the ultimate sacrifice,” the letter says.

Ms Kropinski-Myers apologised for any distress caused to Mr Johnston and his family, particularly due to the protracted nature of the case.

Mr Johnson said he was very pleased to finally have the outcome he wanted.

“The lest we forget ethos is important,” he said. “If people give their life up for their country and go off to fight for their country believing that’s part of the Australian ethos, it needs to be honoured.”

The lest we forget ethos is important. If people give their life up for their country and go off to fight for their country believing that’s part of the Australian ethos, it needs to be honoured - Kelvin Johnston

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