Historian devastated by war medal theft

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A HISTORIAN has been left devastated after a war medal belonging to his great-uncle was stolen by burglars.

Michael Richardson is offering a reward for information leading to the return of the Great War Victory medal.

The honour was presented to veteran Private William Savage after he was injured in the Battle of the Somme, one of the largest offensives of the First World War which claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of servicemen.

The local historian and author, 49, said the daylight raid on his Durham City home has left him “shocked and shaken”.

“I left the house at about 1pm and it was only empty for about 45 minutes,” he said. “In that time, they had established that there was no one in, broken through the back door and gone through every room of the house, including the attic.

“I just can’t believe they could do it in such a short time.”

Despite the medal being worth about £30, the dad-of-two, who is also custodian of the Gilesgate Archive, said its sentimental value was “priceless”.

“What upset me more than anything was the fact that they took something which was precious to me, something which cannot be replaced,” he said. “It’s not as if I can pop into town or go on the internet and find another one.

“There will be one similar to it, but not the same.It won’t have his name on it.”

Mr Richardson believes the thieves were looking for cash or gold, as other household items were left untouched.

A copper Second World War medal, valued at about £10, was also taken in the burglary.

“I’m just hoping that the thieves will realise that the medal is worth next to nothing and hand it in or find some way to get it to me,” he said. “It means so much to me.”

Pte Savage, from Gilesgate, served as a member of the Tyneside Irish branch of the Northumberland Fusiliers, which was virtually wiped out at the Somme in 1916.

“He was 18 when he joined up and 20 when he was shot in the calf at the Somme,” said Mr Richardson. “He was lucky to survive the battle.”

His medal has the date ‘1914-1919’ on one side and an angel on the reverse.

It had a multicoloured ribbon and the title W Savage around the rim.

The St John Ambulance medal, which was acquired by Mr Richardson, was awarded to Durham resident Gwen Bradley. It bears a cross and her name.

Durham Police are investigating the theft and appealing for information.

Anyone with information about the medals, which were stolen on Friday, May 25, should contact the force on non-emergency number 101.

Twitter: @SunderlandEcho