THE FAMILY of an American soldier have been reunited with the dog tag he lost over 70 years ago during World War II after a detectorist found it 4,000 miles away in a Hampshire field.

Elias H. Clarke’s son Elias Jnr was “flabbergasted” when he heard about the discovery by a metal detecting enthusiast.

Chris Belcher-Banes was out searching a field in Whitchurch when his detector picked up the silver dog tag’s signal.

After cleaning it, he realised it belonged to an Elias H. Clarke with markings suggesting he was an American soldier.

The engravings also revealed that Mr Clarke, who died in 1991, enrolled in 1942, that his mother was Patti S. Clarke and that they were from the community of Roanes in Gloucester County, Virginia.

Mr Belcher-Banes, 38, a mobile car valeter from Gosport, was desperate to reunite the tag with the soldier so contacted other metal detecting groups in Virginia.

They sent him records of service personnel, and he was also able to get his hands on an original census of American soldiers.

He discovered Mr Clarke had died 26 years ago - a setback which spurred him on to find surviving relatives.

He tracked down his son, Elias Jnr, to Chicago with the help of a Virginia radio station.

The pair then chatted on air where he learned all about the former soldier’s service history.

Mr Belcher-Banes said: “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.”

Elias H. Clarke enrolled into the United States Army in 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 World War Two he was based in Britain, before being posted to Italy and North Africa.

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.

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 re-read the diary he kept while stationed in North Africa and Italy and held his Marine K-Bar combat knife again which he had to use, but would never tell me how.

“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.

“Off he went to see the world. He worked hard, met people in several different countries, survived a land mine explosion, and then came home to marry and raise a family.

“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.

“He started buying me cameras when I was five, which maybe explains why today I am a TV and film cameraman.

“I am very proud to be Elias Henry Clarke Jr.”

Mr Belcher-Banes said: “I went out to a place in Whitchurch with our group called the Midweek Searchers 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.”