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Down Memory Lane: The travelling Airborne Challenge Coin

The front and back of a personalized Canadian Airborne Challenge Coin that was missing for 34 years but is once again in the possession of its rightful owner, Warrant Officer Steven George Douglas, serial #1725. The back of the coin (right) shows the distinctive emblem of the Canadian Airborne regiment.
The two sides of a personalized Canadian Airborne Challenge Coin that was missing for 34 years but is once again in the possession of its rightful owner, Warrant Officer Steven George Douglas, serial #1725. One side (right) shows the distinctive emblem of the Canadian Airborne regiment. - Allan Stoodley Photography

GARNISH, NL – Grand Bank native Steven Douglas joined the Canadian Forces in 1964 at the young age of 17.

By 1977 he was a seasoned army veteran, having done two peacekeeping tours in Cyprus and becoming a qualified parachutist.

 

Steven G. Douglas. - Allan Stoodley Photography
Steven G. Douglas. - Allan Stoodley Photography

 

He then volunteered for and became a member of the Canadian Airborne Regiment, a parachute infantry group of soldiers formed and manned from other regiments.

 

Each soldier who joined the Airborne Regiment received a commemorative coin bearing his serial number on the front and emblazoned with the regiment’s distinctive emblem on the back.

Referred to as a “Challenge Coin,” a soldier can be “coined” at any time by a comrade.

According to Douglas, “if a jumper is coined he must immediately produce his coin or he pays, usually for a drink. If he does produce his coin, then the challenger has to pay.”

In 1981, after serving four years as a member of the Airborne Regiment, then-Warrant Officer Douglas was transferred to the CFB Cornwallis base in Nova Scotia as an instructor, training new recruits.

Two years later in 1983, his personalized Challenge Coin and his military parka went missing.

He requested and received a replacement coin but unlike the original, it was not personalized with his serial number.

Thirty-four years later in October of this year, Douglas and his wife Gloria were visiting family and friends in New Brunswick when he received emails from a couple of guys who served with him asking, “are you missing your coin?”

The long-lost coin ended up in the hands of retired Air Force pilot Kevin Elliott Wight, who found it in a jar at the home of Digby, N.S. resident Bob Pettipaw, who owned a taxi service and an automotive shop.

The Wights were clearing out the Pettipaw home after the gentleman died. On Aug. 19, 2017 at a family reunion, Kevin Wight, realizing the significance of his new possession, gave the coin to his brother Jeffrey, who had also served in the Airborne Regiment.

Through Facebook and by contacting the Canadian Airborne Forces Association, the missing coin was traced to Warrant Officer Steven George Douglas, #1725, now retired and living in Garnish, NL.

Jeff Wight immediately contacted an elated Douglas and promptly mailed the coin back to its rightful owner in Garnish, with a detailed explanation of how things unfolded.

In August 2018 the Royal Canadian Regiment has a reunion planned in Kingston, Ontario. Douglas is planning to present Jeff Wight with a bottle of Newfoundland Screech – I wonder who will be coined first.

Other former soldiers from the Burin Peninsula who were also Airborne Commandos and thus are in possession of Challenge Coins are John Tarrant and Patrick Turpin from St. Lawrence, Patrick Brockerville from Lawn, and Kevin Johnson of Grand Bank.

It is also worthy of note that Douglas’ only son, Master Warrant Officer Robert Douglas, was also a member of the Airborne Regiment for three years and is the owner of an Airborne Coin.

After serving in the military for 33 years, Douglas retired in 1997 and moved back to Garnish after achieving the rank of chief warrant officer.

He is married to the former Gloria Anstey and they are the parents of three children.

For some years he taught the firearm safety course in this area and in 2015 was named as the Canadian Firearms Instructor of the Year for Newfoundland and Labrador.

Allan Stoodley is a long-time resident of Grand Bank. He can be reached at amstoodley@hotmail.com and he welcomes comments on this or any other article he has written.

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