early settlers have been restored to their family.
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They were lost for nearly 40 years - but now rare war medals belonging to one of Tauranga's
early settlers have been restored to their family.
Two medals from the Crimean War of the 1850s and one from the New Zealand Wars of the 1860s awarded to Robert Farrell have been returned to his great-great-grandson, Paul Farrell of Rotorua.
After fighting at Sevastopol in the Crimea with the British Army's 31st Foot Regiment, Irishman Robert Farrell came to New Zealand in 1863 when the government was offering land to soldiers. He enlisted in the 1st Waikato Regiment at Tauranga as a sergeant and fought at Whakamarama, Whai Whakawhaka and Te Irihanga.
In return, the government of the day gave him 80 acres at Tauriko for a farm. He died in 1873 at the age of 44 and is buried with wife Esther in the Mission Cemetery.
Paul Farrell, who has spent 15 years researching his family history, discovered four years ago that Robert's medals existed, but were sold in the 1970s.
Determined to track them down, Mr Farrell eventually came across Victorian military memorabilia collector Blue Thomas of Turangi, who had recently purchased the medals on Trade Me.
Initially Mr Thomas was reluctant to part with them but he and Mr Farrell struck up a rapport and Mr Thomas promised that if he could replace them, he would make sure they came back to the Farrell family.
It took three years before Mr Thomas managed to purchase another set of similar medals, and then he contacted Mr Farrell to say the medals were his at last.
Mr Farrell is thrilled to have the medals back in the family once more, and said he pursued them for so long because they were the only thing that was left of his great-great-grandparents.
"For these three medals to actually still be together is really hard to believe ... I didn't know that I'd ever get them. But Blue is a man of his word."
Mr Farrell did not want to disclose what he paid for the medals, except to say "you can't put a value on them."
"It's been an amazing journey and it's still going on."
Mr Thomas says the set of three medals is "unique".
"To get a full set of somebody that fought in the Crimea and then in the New Zealand wars is very rare."
 Although Mr Farrell wants to keep  the medals in Tauranga, there is no local museum that he could donate them to.