Sunday, December 02, 2007
DESPICABLE THEFT OF 100 MEDALS, INCLUDING NINE VICTORIA CROSSES STOLEN FROM ARMY MUSEUM IN WAIOURU,IN NEW ZEALAND'S NORTH ISLAND...
The despicable theft of 100 medals, including nine Victoria Crosses, the Commonwealth's highest award for valour - the equivalent of the US Medal of Honor, during a burglary at the New Zealand Army Museum in Waiouru in the North Island, has shattered those distraught families who had permitted these medals to be on display.
They fear that the medals, valued at NZ$10 million could end up on the black market overseas.They could not be sold on the open market.
The medals include the VC and Bar, awarded to Captain Charles Upham, universally recognised as the most gallant of all from any allied army in World War Two. The medals include those awarded in World War One as well. There were two George Medals, which are awarded to civilians, and an Albert Medal originally awarded for saving lives at sea.
NZ police stated the burglars and thieves entered through the rear of the museum at about 1-10am, and smashed the display cases to get at the priceless medals. The security system was activated, but the thieves were gone by the time a security guard arrived within minutes.
It is not only a tragic loss for the families who owned these priceless medals, but also for the nation as a whole. These were national treasures; the average New Zealander will feel gutted as well.
The VC and Bar of Captain Upham, had been sold by his daughters to the British Imperial Museum just last year, and had been loaned back to NZ for 999 years.
These medals had been awarded to their recipients for extraordinary valour and have come to symbolise the huge sacrifices that many New Zealanders made in conjunction with those from other allied nations in many conflicts and wars during the 20th Century, and even early in the 21st Century.
Fortunately the medal of New Zealand's latest war hero, Sgt Willy Apiata, awarded for action under fire when rescuing his comrades in Afghanistan was not taken.
The families of the war heroes have pleaded for the return of these medals.