War hero’s stolen medals recovered

Mar 21st, 2011 | By | Category: Club News

TWELVE years ago, medals bestowed on a war hero and distinguished police commander were stolen from his family’s Oxfordshire cottage.

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

9 Comments to “War hero’s stolen medals recovered”

  1. william darley says:

    Well done Allan and Dave its great for the club

  2. Dave.C says:

    Honesty and integrity come shining through, like a diamond in the mud! Well done chaps, you’re a credit to the club. I’ve just had a phone call from a Mr. Robinson? And he said he’s seriously reconsidering his stance on detectorists now… ! Seriously though, a big round of applause is in order here for the both of you.

  3. Well done lads, what a great feeling it must be to hand them back to their rightful home. Yes you are a credit to the club and deserve the big round of applause. Also well done to all the members who did the research, and were able to trace the family and pass on the information to the club. Congratulations all round.

    • Dave.C says:

      Indeed. All credit to the ‘behind the scenes’ boys! I do believe I managed to name-check all concerned, in the story I wrote for the detecting press. Keep an eye out for the June issue of The Searcher. I hear there could well be a couple of OBMDC hunks on the front cover!

  4. Dave.C says:

    For the unabridged story, be sure to get the June issue of The Searcher magazine! Two free staples with every copy.

  5. William Darley says:

    Great story and photos in the Searcher of Allan and Davids medals they must be proud .It goes into my keepsakes

    • Dave.C says:

      Thanks Bill. It’s always great when any of our members find something we can be collectively proud of! (You know, like a pot of gold coins or something?!!!). I’m hoping that for those of you who don’t get The Searcher, (why not?) Dave and Allan’s medal story will be featured in an upcoming edition of the equally fab Treasure Hunting magazine. ;)
      So for anyone reading this message: Pull your finger out – I need you to find something I can write THE NEXT story about!

      • Dave.C says:

        Update: The medal story is now featuring in the September issue of Treasure Hunting – available now! Yours to rumple and fetish for just £3.75 which includes perfect binding and an easy-wipe glossy cover . . . ;)

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