Mystery disappearance of rare medals

POLICE officers are investigating the disappearance of two George Medals - including the first ever to be awarded to a woman - in a Suffolk town.Suffolk police were called in when the medals, which are the responsibility of Aldeburgh Town Council, were reported missing.

By Richard Smith

POLICE officers are investigating the disappearance of two George Medals - including the first ever to be awarded to a woman - in a Suffolk town.

Suffolk police were called in when the medals, which are the responsibility of Aldeburgh Town Council, were reported missing.

The honours were supposed to be kept under lock and key for insurance purposes but they cannot be found and the force was asked to investigate just before Easter.


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Officers do not believe the medals have been stolen, however.

Paul Rose, an officer based at Saxmundham, said: “We are assisting in trying to establish the exact whereabouts of the medals. We are not sure whether a crime has been committed at this stage.

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“We are trying to create a timeline to establish exactly where and when the medals have been moved from various locations.

“I think it is fair to say that an order trail in recording the moving around of the medals over the years is not as complete as perhaps it would be nowadays.

“We have been called in because everybody wants to be seen to be doing everything correctly. We have not got to the stage where we have looked into the value of the medals, at the moment it is not that kind of investigation.”

John Digby, mayor of Aldeburgh, said: “The police are handling this. It is quite delicate and they want to do their inquiries first.”

The museum does not have a curator and it is run by a management committee.

Diana Hughes, a committee member, said: “The police are in control of the situation. It is nothing to do with the museum - it is the council's responsibility.”

An Aldeburgh resident, who declined to be named, said: “There were some issues with the insurance and the police said the medals should be kept in the safe.

“In order to show them in the museum they were taken away from the safe to be copied - but nobody knows where they are now.”

Replicas of the medals are on display in the Moot Hall Museum with a citation. At one time the original medals were stored in a bank and then in the town council's safe in the Moot Hall.

The value of the medals has not been revealed but one medal in particular is believed to be worth a lot of money.

It was awarded in 1941 to Dorothy Clarke, a housewife from Aldeburgh, who was the first woman to receive such an honour.

The George Medal is the second highest gallantry medal that a civilian can win. The highest is the George Cross.

Mrs Clarke was with the Air Raid Precautions (ARP) when she was called out to rescue two Royal Engineers at Thorpeness.

She drove an ambulance and she was assisted by first-aid attendant Bessie Knight-Hepburn, from Aldeburgh, who also received the George Medal.

They made their way through a minefield to try to save the dying soldiers who had trod on a mine. One of the soldiers died and the other was badly injured.

Mrs Clarke and Mrs Knight-Hepburn, who both died some years ago, were in the first group of people to receive the George Medal from the British monarch at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

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