War hero’s stolen medals recoveredMar 21st, 2011 | By webmaster | Category: Club News
But this weekend they were returned to their rightful home after being discovered in a farmer’s field just 20 yards from the house they were taken from.
The honours, eight in total including the OBE, the King’s Police and Fire Services Medal and the World War I British War medal, were unearthed by two metal detector enthusiasts on a bleak Sunday afternoon in January.
They had been awarded to Ralph Sheldon, a World War I veteran and high-ranking officer in the Metropolitan Police, who died in 1952.
And after some detective work of their own, the Oxford Blues Metal Detecting Club were thrilled to hand the hoard back his family.
They presented the medals to Mr Sheldon’s daughter-in-law Katrina Sheldon on the lawn of her Denton cottage that overlooks the field where they were found.
She said: “It is wonderful to have them back.”
Mrs Sheldon, who runs a bed and breakfast at the 17th century cottage, said she was stunned when she got the phone call from the metal detecting club.
“My first thought was ‘you’re not going to dig my garden up’, but they asked if I knew a Ralph Sheldon,” she said.
“They explained they had found the medals and it was amazing. The family thought they would never see them again.”
Mrs Sheldon said her husband, a double Bafta award-winning film editor also called Ralph, was too ill to accept his father’s medals.
But she added he was delighted to have them back.
Ralph Sheldon Snr had served as a machine gunner with the Grenadier Guards in the First World War before joining the police force in 1919.
He rose to the rank of commander where he was responsible for security at Buckingham Palace, and was awarded the Coronation medal in 1937 and the OBE in 1952.
Allan Cook, from Swindon, and David Barton, from Iffley, Oxford, discovered the medals on one of the club’s regular Sunday sweeps.
And the club were only able to track down the Sheldon family thanks to the name inscribed on the edge of two of the honours.
Mr Barton said: “I dug down about six inches and the first one to come up was the OBE.
I didn’t know what it was to start with. The detector was still going haywire and I found the others.”
Mr Cook said finding the medals was “like winning the lottery” but handing them back to the family was even better.
He added: “It was so nice to reunite them with the family. It was great to complete the story.”
No one was caught for the 1999 burglary and the family believe the thieves simply discarded the hero’s medals as they fled the scene.
This story was published in the Oxford Mail on 21st March 2011