Uphams want medals in vault

01:43, Jan 31 2009

The daughters of New Zealand war hero Charles Upham want his priceless valour medals locked in a vault and replicas put on display at the Army Museum in Waiouru.

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Upham's two Victoria Crosses were among 96 medals returned on Saturday after thieves handed them back to authorities via an Auckland lawyer. The medals, including nine Victoria Crosses, were taken amid lax security at the Army Museum on December 2.

However, the army wants the medals back on display at their "rightful home" in Waiouru.

Upham's Canterbury-based daughter, Virginia McKenzie, said she did not want to see her father's medals put at risk again.

Since the theft, she had learned that overseas, replicas were displayed - and she wanted to see the same practice at the Army Museum.


"People from overseas couldn't believe we didn't have replicas," she said. "They were saying they should be kept in a vault. They were amazed."

Her sister, Amanda Upham, agreed the medals were too precious to be placed on display.

Upham was enjoying her 60th birthday party yesterday, as well as celebrating the return of her father's medals.

"I'm delighted they are back. But I'd like to see them in a vault as I understand they do in Australia," she said.

The Upham family do not own the medals, which belong to London's Imperial War Museum. The London museum has loaned the medals to Waiouru for 999 years. Chief of Army Major General Lou Gardiner said they would return to Waiouru after a "security review has been completed and changes implemented".

"New Zealanders should be able to see the original medals ... It is a tangible connection to the gallantry of some of the nation's most famous sons."

The Press