The Cowell community is outraged after a break in at the RSL hall left the premises damaged and priceless memorabilia missing.
The break-in occurred over the last weekend in September and was discovered on Monday, October 1.
Donated items including artillery shells, bayonets and a World War I rifle are missing, along with a bottle of alcohol and money from the till.
The culprit, who broke in via the back window, appears to have stolen from the hall at random and caused damage by kicking in a door, smashing a cabinet and breaking model replicas on display.
While the RSL is confident their insurance will cover the damage to the premises, finding the culprit is the only way to get back what they have lost.
President Robert McFarlane said every item stolen had a story behind it, and was donated by the loved ones of those who served in war.
“How do you put a price on them and how do you replace them?” he said.
The RSL Hall is decorated by a complex assortment of memorabilia, and each time Mr. McFarlane has visited since the break-in he has discovered new damage and missing items.
A sabre brought home by his great uncle Peter McFarlane is missing from the wall.
Family stories suggest Peter was the highest ranking officer to come from Cowell to serve Australia, serving in the Boer War, at Gallipoli in World War I and as a high-ranking advisor in London in World War II.
The missing sabre is either from the Boer War or Gallipoli.
Mr. McFarlane said each missing piece had a similar background.
“Just about everything has got a story to it.”
“This has taken years to establish.”
He said the RSL community was “distraught,” with wives of soldiers who had passed away moved to tears at the loss of their donations to the hall.
“This is the first time we’ve had anything like this happen,” Mr. McFarlane said.
He has been involved with the Cowell RSL since 1970.
Mr. McFarlane appealed to those responsible to consider the impact on the community.
He said if they had “an ounce of dignity or compassion,” they should return the memorabilia.
“I don’t care if they do it anonymously,” he said.
Anyone who saw any suspicious activity in the area or who has information about the whereabouts of the stolen items is asked to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or online at www.crimestopperssa.com.au