21 Oct 2008

Stolen war medals returned to Army Museum

9:40 pm on 21 October 2008

Stolen war medals have been returned to the Army Museum at Waiouru on Tuesday.

Ninety-six medals were stolen from the Valour Alcove at the museum on 2 December, including nine Victoria Crosses and two George Crosses.

In February, police recovered the 12 sets of medals and last week arrested two men in connection with the theft.

Police officially handed back the medals during a special ceremony at the museum on Tuesday. Distinguished guests included families of the men whose sets of medals were stolen.

The head of the New Zealand Army, Major General Lou Gardiner, says the medals are an important link to New Zealand's proud military history.

Major General Gardiner says they were awarded to "ordinary Kiwis", who rose up to achieve extraordinary feats of courage in moments of great peril.

The men exhibited courage, comradeship, commitment and integrity - values which the Army hold dear, he says.

Defence Minister Phil Goff says loss of the medals would have been an incalculable cost to New Zealand's heritage and he paid tribute to police who spent 15,000 hours on Operation Valour to recover the medals.

Mr Goff says $1.5 million is being spent on upgrading security at the museum.

The medals will be on public display again from Tuesday.