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Widow, 98, battles with Ministry of Defence over husband’s stolen WW2 medals

Shelagh Connor with a photograph of her and her husband Richard Connor.
Shelagh Connor with a photograph of her and her husband Richard Connor.

A 98-year-old widow from Orkney is pleading with defence chiefs to replace her husband’s World War Two service medals, nearly 70 years after they were stolen in east Africa.

Shelagh Connor, who lives in Stromness, wants to be able to give her husband Richard’s war medals to her grandson.

But she is facing an uphill battle as the MoD say the medals cannot be replaced because there is no police record of them going missing.

Richard Connor received the Defence Medal and The War Medal for his service in the Royal Army Medical Corps in Northern Ireland from 1942 to 1945.

Defence Medal.

After the war the couple moved to colonial Tanganyika in East Africa to become teachers.

Less than a decade after receiving the service medals they were stolen but no police report was filed.

Her plea has now made it to the House of Commons where Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael is trying to convince the UK Government to make an exception.

Grandson would ‘treasure’ medals

Mrs Connor lived in the country, in territory now part of Tanzania, with her husband for 16 years and had all five of her children there.

When the medals were stolen in 1956, the couple didn’t receive an official police report and didn’t file an insurance claim.

Mrs Connor said: “My husband had an office in a little outbuilding and one day the dog was outside barking.

Shelagh Connor is appealing to the MoD to replace her husband’s World War Two service medals.

“We went out to see the dog several times and in the end we let the dog inside.

“But the next day when he went across to his office, the suitcase his medals were in had been stolen.

“The police caught the chap who did it but he refused to say what he had done with the medals so we never got them back.”

Fast-forward 70 years and her grandson is now also serving in the Royal Army Medical Corps and is entitled to wear his grandfather’s war medals.

Shelagh and Richard, pictured on their engagement.

Mrs Connor, originally from Lancashire, has been in contact with the MoD to get replacements made so she can give the medals to her grandson.

She added: “Every now and again my husband would say he wanted to try and get the medals back but we got busy with life and never ended up doing anything about it.

“I am irritated because of the circumstances in East Africa at the time.

“We didn’t even have telephones.

“If we wanted to contact the local police in the area, someone had to go to them with a message.

“It didn’t occur to us at the time and we didn’t realise we would have a grandson who would also go into the Royal Army Medical Corps.

“It would be very special to get them replaced. My grandson would treasure them.

“I am not doing it for me, it is for my husband.”

MoD refuse to change position

A spokesman for the MoD said he recognised the sentimental value of military medals.

But the spokesman added: “Whilst we cannot replace the originals to ensure each medal’s integrity is protected, if a medal is lost we can advise on the best options for high quality replicas.”

Mr Carmichael, as her local MP, brought the appeal to Westminster.

He said: “The Ministry of Defence claim that rules of this sort are necessary to preserve the integrity of the system.

“They have a point but surely they can see that enforcing them in this way actually undermines the standing of the system.

“We owe a lot to Shelagh’s generation.

“The least we can give them in return is a bit of respect and understanding.”

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