MEDALS that went mysteriously missing from York's Army Museum have made an unexpected and welcome return.

The medals, awarded to Company Sgt Maj James Edwin White of the East Yorkshire Regiment, were sold at auction for £2,000 in 2017.

Following a chance turn of events, the sale, by a collectibles company, was uncovered by a member of White's family, who had donated them to the Prince of Wales's Own Regiment of Yorkshire Museum in 1980 (a collection now housed at York Army Museum).

Mrs Pauline Latter, White's granddaughter, reported the amazing coincidence to museum curator, Wg Cmdr Alan Bartlett, and, after an internal investigation, the sale was reported to the police.

She said: "I was shocked, as far as I knew they were in the museum. It was a miracle that I saw them."

At some point between 1980 and 2006, when the medals were simply recorded as 'missing' on the museum's new digital database, they disappeared.

It is thought they had been stolen in one of the collection's many moves or during a theft when they were housed at Fulford Barracks in the early-1980s, but there was no investigation at the time.

North Yorkshire Police traced their journey through a series of medal fairs and auctions to their new owner, an anonymous collector in Essex.

Pauline, from West Sussex, said: "I was told they were legally his. We couldn't find out who had stolen them, but I thought that can't be right. If you buy a stolen car it's not yours."

It took six months of painstaking work to establish contact with the new owner, whose own grandfather and great-uncle had served in the same regiment (part of the Prince of Wales's Own since 1958).

Once he was made aware of their history, he donated them back to the collection.

Wg Cmdr Bartlett said: "In this month of remembrance, it is warming to hear about a set of Boer War and First World War medals being returned to their regimental home."

The set comprises Boer War Queen's and King's South Africa medals with five bars, a British War medal, an Allied Victory medal and a Distinguished Conduct medal awarded for bravery in the field.

They will be on show, along with White's diary, on Tuesday, November 30, from 7-9pm, when the museum is hosting a free open evening.

James White was born in Paddington, London, in 1881. He enlisted in the East Yorkshire Regiment in 1899, at the age of 17 years and two months, and was a clerk in the brigade office in Strensall before being posted to South Africa during the Boer War. He is believed to have lied about his age to enlist.

Later, he was appointed L Cpl and posted to India, but asked to be reverted to the rank of Pte after a period of hospitalisation - he was promoted again two years later.

In 1906, he returned to England and joined the Army Reserve and in 1911, he re-enlisted.

During the First World War, he was engaged at a training unit at Humber Garrison. He was promoted to Cpl in 1914 and later appointed Acting Sgt before being discharged in 1916, after 17 years of service.

His discharge papers describe his character as "Honest, trustworthy and intelligent" and "A sober man".

Later that year, he was recalled, fighting in some of the most fierce battles on the Western Front.

In 1917, he was promoted to Company Quartermaster Sgt and in 1918, was appointed Acting Company Sgt Maj. He earned his Distinguished Conduct Medal for 'action in the field' at Vendegies au Bois in October 2018.

During the Second World War, he was awarded the Civil Defence Medal.