METAL detectorist Chris Belcher-Banes has told of the moment he discovered the tag of a Second World War soldier lost 70 years ago.
The family of the American soldier have been reunited with the dog tag.
Elias H. Clarke’s son Elias Jnr was ‘flabbergasted’ when he heard about the startling discovery of its whereabouts.
Chris, who lives in Gosport, was out searching a field in the village of Whitchurch, when his metal detector picked up a signal.
The 38-year-old, a mobile car valeter, was desperate to reunite the tag with the soldier so contacted other metal detecting groups for help.
He established through one contact that Mr Clarke had died 26 years ago – a setback which spurred him on to find surviving relatives.
Remarkably, he tracked down his son Elias Jnr with the help of a Virginia radio station called Mix 98.1, and it turned out he was living in Chicago, Illinois.
The pair then chatted together for the first time on air, where he learned all about the former soldier’s service history.
Chris said: ‘It was surreal. He was talking to me about his dad and he remembered his dad saying he had lost his dog tag during the war, but he couldn’t remember where.
‘We will remain in touch. He was absolutely flabbergasted. He couldn’t believe I had taken the time to pursue and find his family.’
Married father-of-one Elias Jnr, a cameraman, said: ‘Chris finding my dad’s dog tag is truly amazing.
‘It not only adds to my collection of the things he held dear, it has inspired me to comb through all my photos and memories of our life together.
‘I’ve spent a lot of time remembering the soft spoken, loving African-American farm kid from Virginia who left his peaceful, rural life at 18 to fight for his country.
‘Of course, he was no different to the millions of soldiers around the world who sacrificed so much for what they believed was right.
‘He went on to become an amateur photographer and machinist, building components for sea mines.
‘I am very proud to be Elias Henry Clarke Jr.’
Recalling the find, Chris said: ‘I went out to a place in Whitchurch and I got a signal in a field.
‘I dug it up and a flat silver plate came out. I didn’t know what it was at first.
‘But then I cleaned the mud off it and I realised it was a serviceman’s dog tag.’
Elias H. Clarke was an African American soldier who enrolled into the United States Army on January 27 1942, aged 18.
He joined a US troop of engineers having worked in his civilian life as an electrical assembler, working as a truck driver for the army and once survived a land mine explosion.
During the Second World War he was based in Britain, before being posted to both Italy and North Africa during the war.
While in England, he became a member of the West Indian Social Club in East London where he once witnessed a performance by the American jazz and pop singer Lena Horne – who signed a photo for him.
Arrangements are now being made for the dog tag to be sent to his surviving family back in the USA.