A bizarre chain of events sees the wartime medal of Private Albert Stowell presented to his great grandson.

Albert Stowell's medal, which has been returned to his family.Albert Stowell's medal, which has been returned to his family.

A long-lost World War One medal has seen a touching reunion with the family of the Ilfracombe soldier who earned it a century ago.

A chain of random events led to the commemoration medal of Private Albert Earnest Stowell being returned to his great grandson Mark Stowell at Ilfracombe Museum on Thursday.

As it happened, the searchers did not need to look far, as Mark and his family still live in Barnstaple.

The story began when Philippa Tucker from Ilfracombe found the medal while sorting her brother James' possessions following his death in 1980.

It was only recently she realised there was a name inscribed on it and when she took part in the August Commemoration Day event in the town she was inspired to seek its rightful owner.

Albert served in the Devonshire Regiment but nothing else is known about his military service. He also served as town beadle in Barnstaple in the 1930s and died in May, 1973, aged 83.

Philippa found his grave at Marlborough Road cemetery, but was unable to learn more and turned to museum volunteer Sue Garwood for help.

An appeal on the Ilfracombe History Forum Facebook page and Mark was found 30 minutes later, plus local historian Brian Barrow was able to add a bit more background to Mark's family tree.

"I believe my brother bought it from Bennetto's book shop, but when he got it, I don't know," said Philippa.

"I didn't feel it was mine, I just looked after it for a while."

A delighted mark and his wife Jo were pleased and touched to see a little piece of family history returned.

"Although I was six when he died, I don't remember my great grandfather," he said.

"We've been watching the family history shows so recently it had whetted my appetite and then we got a phone call from Sue. It was quite bizarre and something I wouldn't have expected.

"Thank you to all the ladies and to Brian for all their hard work. Now I have some leads for my research from what Brian has provided it's going to be a massive head start."