A PLAQUE commemorating the heroism of Sgt Pilot Bruce Hancock which was believed to have been stolen has been recovered from the person who took it.

The plaque commemorates Sgt Pilot Bruce Hancock’s decision to destroy a German bomber by ramming it while flying in an unarmed aircraft during the battle of Britain.

Although it was reported to the police as stolen the plaque was actually removed by staff from RAF Brize Norton, who planned to refurbish it but did not inform anyone in the area.

A spokesman for RAF Brize Norton said: ‘’I can confirm that on August 8, a serviceman from RAF Brize Norton removed a brass plaque from the RAF Windrush memorial after being informed by a visiting pilot that its fixings had started to become loose.

“Keen to prevent the plaque from being stolen, it was therefore removed with the intention of refurbishing it before being re-secured to the memorial. At the time, it was thought that the plaque was a military dedication, and so, regrettably, its significance to the local community and elsewhere was not appreciated fully.

“Consequently, whilst its removal was carried out with the very best of intentions, we wholeheartedly apologise for any upset this misunderstanding may have caused. The plaque has now been returned and Royal Air Force Brize Norton very much looks forward to supporting the rededication ceremony.’’

Bill King was there when the plaque was presented 20 years ago and explained that to remove it without informing anyone was an outrage given the significance of the incident.

Speaking on behalf of the North Oxon and Cotswold Area Military Vehicle Trust (OXCOT) he said: “It really has caused a tremendous uproar. The parish council were very unhappy, the farmer who owned the land is very unhappy about it and OXCOT are very, very unhappy about this whole thing.”

“The plaque has been in situ for 20 years and then was suddenly removed.”

He explained that the land is owned by a tenant farmer, Roy Limbrick, who looks after the site and keeps an eye out for suspicious activity.

He also questioned why the staff from Brize Norton did not inform anyone in the village, or the police after the plaque was reported as stolen.

Bill has asked for a formal apology from those responsible at Brize Norton and for the refurbished plaque to be put back in place as soon as possible, which has now been agreed.