Medals worth estimated £500,000 missing from Chelmsford Museum

Image: Medals on display at Chelmsford Museum

Efforts to find the two Victoria Crosses, first identified as lost last September, continues at the museum

Chelmsford Museum is continuing its search for two lost medals, each valued in the region of £250,000–£300,000.

The medals, called Victoria Crosses, are part of the Essex Regiment Museum collection and are housed at Chelmsford Museum, where replicas of the medals are on display.

The loss of the original medals was first identified September 2023, during a routine inspection. Chelmsford Museum said it immediately informed the Essex Regiment Museum and made a report to Essex Police.

The museum said it has made the announcement now because its initial enquiries are completed. The announcement also follows a freedom of information request by EssexLive to Chelmsford City Council. There is no evidence to suggest that the original crosses have been stolen, it said.

The two medals were awarded to Sergeant William McWheeney in 1857, for his service during the Siege of Sevastopol, and to Lieutenant Francis Parsons posthumously in 1900, for acts of bravery during the Battle of Paardeberg. Both were of the 44th (East Essex) Regiment – later the 1st Battalion of The Essex Regiment.

The search for the times continues alongside a long-term collections management project. The project, which began during the museum’s first lockdown closure in 2020, “aims to improve documentation of Essex Regiment Museum and Chelmsford Museum’s combined collections of around 100,000 objects.”

Until this is completed, or unless new information becomes available, the museum said it cannot confirm whether the medals have been lost or are simply located elsewhere within the collections.

Marc De’ath, Chelmsford City Culture Services Manager said:“We are determined to do everything in our power to recover the crosses; our curatorial staff have been working hard to search for them and this work will continue for as long as it takes.

“At this stage, we are keeping an open mind about what has happened; there is currently no evidence to suggest that these medals have been stolen and staff at the museum are not under suspicion.

“We will work closely with the Essex Regiment Museum and Essex Police as we continue our search, and we would urge anyone with information that may be relevant to get in touch with the police.”