BY CHRISTINA FARRELL
-A DUTCH family is attempting to return a relic purse to a British soldier or his family after it was given to them for safe-keeping during the Second World War.
Ian Martin, who runs a website that tries to put servicemen and women back in touch with former friends and colleagues, came across Jan Schonkeren's site which details the purse and his family's efforts to trace the soldier.
He contacted The Catholic Herald to ask for help.
He wrote: "I am wondering if you would be interested in contacting Jan to assist him in his search ... or if you could point me in the direction of someone who may be able to more fully identify the origin of the religious items."
The soldier was stationed in the neighbourhood of a farm at Horsterweg in Stramproy. The army pulled out of Stramproy after Christmas 1944. On his website, Jan Schonkeren says the missing soldier worked in the kitchen. The family described him as a pious Catholic, probably about 20 years old.
"His first name cannot be remembered. Some first names of military men on the farm were: Shun, Si (Simon), Sjonny, Harold, Norman and Robert."
The relic purse, approximately 5 x 5 cm in size, is made of a soft leather and folded in four parts. It contains two medals with images of the Virgin Mary and Jesus. Pasted in the purse are images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a crucifix and some prayers, including an act of contrition. There is also a miraculous medal of St Catherine Laboure which the family believe was sewn into the purse after the soldier visited her chapel at Rue de Bac, Paris.
The Schonkeren family have already started an extensive search of Army records, including the grave register of the War Cemetery at Nederweert.
At the moment the names Patrick O'Rourke and James Pickavance are at the top of the list of possibilities, until the family receives information to the contrary. The family say they would be grateful for any help or information. They want to give the relic purse back to its rightful owner. If the soldier was killed and is buried in the Netherlands, the family say they will adopt his grave.
To view the webpage with details of the relic purse, go to http://home.hccnethl/j.schorikeren/