Friday, 03 April 2020
A METAL detectorist from Henley has found a gold Rolex watch from the Thirties.
Brian Fearn, 51, now hopes to reunite the timepiece with the owner’s descendants.
He made the discovery while searching a field in Shiplake on January 20 with four friends who call themselves the Oxon Treasure Hunters.
He had been detecting for less than half an hour when he discovered the watch buried under about four inches of mud.
The front was missing but the back had an inscription reading: “W Roy Driscoll. Good luck. May 1940.”
Mr Fearn said: “I looked at it, cleaned off the mud and thought I’d picked up some girl’s watch because it is quite small. I didn’t know it was gold until my mate mentioned that gold doesn’t tarnish.
“When I got back home my friend sent me some links on how to get your Rolex repaired and I noticed it had the crown and the Rolex stamp on it and it’s nine carat gold.
“I thought ‘this belongs to someone and I would like to give it back’. It’s in a state but it can be fixed. it’s going to be worth a lot in sentimental value if that’s your grandad.”
He believes it was a gift to a serviceman — Rolex watches were given to Canadian soldiers and airmen who served in the Second World War.
Mr Fearn discovered that a William Roy Driscoll served in the RAF Volunteer Reserve as a leading aircraftman. He was a pilot under training believed to have been based at RAF Henley, off Culham Lane, between Remenham and Wargrave.
He died on July 28, 1940 and was the son of Robert Alfred and Bertha Driscoll, according to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. He is buried in Hove Cemetery.
Mr Fearn, a former Henley firefighter who now works as a painter and decorator, said the watch was one of his best finds since he took up metal detecting last year.
“Every metal detector wants to find gold,” he said. “It’s the best thing you can find. My friends are well jealous.”
In October he found Celtic gold ring money, dating from the bronze age, also in Shiplake.
Before the introduction of coinage, copper and gold rings were used as currency by Celtic tribes.
Mr Fearn is in the process of having the piece declared treasure. He has to give it to Oxfordshire County Council’s finds liaison officer who will write a report about it and museums can express an interest if it’s treasure.
The coroner will then hold an inquest and the Treasure Valuation Committee will decide how much the money is worth and how much will go to anyone entitled to a share of the find. Those eligible include the finder, a person or organisation who owns the land or someone who occupies the land as a tenant.
Mr Fearn has also uncovered a bronze age spearhead, musket shots, half crowns and a match holder from an American Boeing B-17 bomber, known as the Flying Fortress, which exploded and crashed into the River Thames near Wargrave on November 13, 1943.
He said: “I did quite a lot of detecting during last summer. You can detect iron and higher metals like aluminium or silver. If it’s iron the detector will make a low-pitched sound but if it’s anything else it will be higher.
“It’s very addictive — you might go out and find a bit of tin can and the next time you’ll find an old coin.”
16 February 2020
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