Smiles as stolen museum item returned to Port Pirie RSL

HAPPY: Museum curator with the Returned Services League Jeff Kenyon shows the World War II Japanese air-raid siren that was originally stolen.
HAPPY: Museum curator with the Returned Services League Jeff Kenyon shows the World War II Japanese air-raid siren that was originally stolen.

An item that once “wailed” has brought whoops of joy to the Port Pirie Returned Services League sub-branch.

The old soldiers are celebrating after a World War II Japanese air-raid siren was returned to their museum  after having been stolen last year by an unfriendly visitor.

It had been on display with other war memorabilia.

At the time, the sub-branch condemned the theft and appealed for the item’s return.

War museums had been hit by thefts in the Mid North and on Eyre Peninsula about the same time, including the loss of artillery shells, bayonets and a World War I rifle after a break-in at the Cowell sub-branch.

Port Pirie president Malcolm Bond told of the happy ending for his members.

He said they had a phone call from an antique dealer in Geelong who was involved with the Torquay RSL archives in Victoria.

“He was travelling from Western Australia and he picked up the siren somewhere on the way back,” he said.

“He heard about the Cowell RSL being broken into and items being stolen there and at the same time heard about our loss.

“He rang us and we ended up sending photographs of the siren to him and he said that as far as he was concerned it was ours. Someone had ripped it off and put it in a pawn shop somewhere on the way from WA to South Australia.”

The good news came about two weeks ago and the item arrived in the post on January 14.

“It will be under security when it goes on display. We are not going to lock it away, but we are going to chain it down so it cannot be taken,” he said.

Museum curator Jeff Kenyon said members had been “over the moon” when the siren was returned through he antique dealer’s honesty.

“Now it is chained up so if someone wants to pinch it, you have to pull the kitchen out as well,” he said.

A soldier’s slouch hat was also stolen from the museum during what was a series of attacks by thieves on the institution.

Offenders also fled with a half-mast Australian flag.

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