Priceless memorabilia connected to a New Zealand prisoner of war who survived a World War II "death march" across Europe that was mistakenly left in an Auckland restaurant will be reunited to its grateful owners.
A Mt Eden restaurateur was looking through the restaurant's lost property items earlier this week when he came across a grey bag containing a collection of photos, letters, certificates, newspaper cuttings and military "dog tags".
Realising the importance to the owner and their family, he got in touch with Dennis Thompson, an administrator of popular Facebook page Old Auckland.
"Somebody will be beside themselves," says Thompson, who has posted photographs of the find online, hoping to reunite the items with their rightful owner.
After a Herald article yesterday, the owner of the collection has come forward.
Terry Brown, nephew of Alan Thomas (Tommy) Lewis who was one of 1900 New Zealand soldiers captured by the Nazis during the Battle of Crete in May 1941, is delighted with the find.
He had gone to the Mt Eden establishment about a year ago after the photos and commemorative medals had been mounted by a local photo restoration shop.
"I had no idea where I lost it," says 77-year Terry of Bucklands Beach.
He read of the lost bag while reading the Herald in bed last night.
"I couldn't believe what I was reading. I am so happy to be reunited. I do have copies but those were the originals."
The bag included dog tags and documentation relating to Stalag VIIIB, an infamous prisoner of war camp near the small Polish town of Lamsdorf.
In January 1945, as the Soviet armies were advancing on Germany, thousands of POWs were force-marched westwards through Europe for hundreds of kilometres in freezing winter conditions.
One document on the collection tells how Lewis was forced to walk 1000km in 100 days.
On his return to New Zealand in early August 1945, he was treated for frostbite at Burwood Hospital in Christchurch.
Terry Brown recalls waiting at the railway station when his uncle returned from the war - the day before the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in Japan.
As a child he remembers spending time with his war veteran uncle Tommy but "never getting anything out of him".
"He was very much a loner when he came back," says Terry who believes his uncle was deeply affected by his war experiences.
"He tried to put it all to the back of his mind."
Military documents for Alan Thomas Lewis, with service number 8609, say he was a driver for the New Zealand 2nd Division Supply Column.
It also confirms that Lewis - who came from Hari Hari on the West Coast and lists his mother's address as being the Hari Hari Hotel - was captured at Crete.