Saturday, February 16, 2008



New Zealand society is ecstatic at the return of stolen war medals.

The news of a burglary at the Army Museum in the Waiouru Military Camp last December left most New Zealanders in shock - 96 valuable medals including 9 Victoria Crosses( the NZ and Commonwealth equivalent to the US Medals of Honor)had been stolen in a brazen and despicable burglary. They included the VC and Bar Of Captain Charles Upham, New Zealand's most decorated soldier, and the only serving soldier to earn the VC twice.

The Prime Minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark, and many community and business leaders publicly condemned the robbery and theft of the irreplaceable medals, which are regarded as national treasures,icons and taonga of the country and people. Many heroes have given their lives in service to their country.

While Captain Upham"s medals had been sold by the late war hero's family to the British War Museum in London, they had been loaned back to New Zealand for 999 years.

The medals were returned as a result of the $NZ 300,000 reward, put up by British medal collector Lord Michael Ashcroft, and a Nelson,NZ, businessman and former US marine in Vietnam,Tom Sturgess. The reward had encouraged somebody to come forward and return the medals. No immunity from prosecution was given.

Police were celebrating like the military community, but their job will not be completed until the culprits are arrested and prosecuted.The police are to be highly commended for their work involved in recovering the medals. The families of medal recipients are over the moon at the recovery. Fears had been expressed that the medals could have been discarded somewhere.

The medals are unlikely to be on public display again. Other countries display replicas, and store the real medals in bank vaults; New Zealand will undoubtably follow suit.But, however, it is a day to celebrate.

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