SAS veteran distraught on losing service medals after Abbey visit


An SAS veteran who was the youngest serving officer in the elite unit and claimed he once helped explorer and soldier Sir Ranulph Fiennes "out of trouble" is distraught after losing his service medals after a Remembrance Service event.

Peter Bennett, who suffers from dementia, visited London for the opening of the Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey on Thursday, when Prince Harry and the Duke of Edinburgh paid tribute to Britain's fallen soldiers.

But the 80-year-old lost his SAS beret, his overcoat and bag and nine medals between the service and when he returned home to Grantham the following day, his family said.

Among the decorations were service medals from his time in Oman, Yemen and Malaya.

Mr Bennett took part in a local Remembrance service this morning carrying a banner for the Royal British Legion and kept wondering where his medals were, his daughter Giulia Bennett said.

"He is obviously asking for them, and he gets a bit upset when he remembers and realises he doesn't have them. We are just more upset for him really, and angry with ourselves that he was on his own without care."

Mr Bennett was just 19 when he joined the SAS in 1954, after doing National Service with the 12 Lancers Royal Cavalry.

He spent his 21st birthday in the jungle of Malaya - a date he hid from his colleagues to avoid any unpleasant surprises - and went on to serve in the Gulf for a number of years.

He served in Oman with Johnny Cooper, one of the founders of the SAS, his family said, and spent time in Yemen with Colonel Jim Johnson, who was responsible for running Britain's secret war against Egyptian forces there during the mid-1960s.

At one point, Mr Bennett told his family, he and his colleagues knew Sir Ranulph, who fought in Oman, and helped get him out of trouble "a couple of times", before he finally came home in 1967.

Mr Bennett's family are unsure of exactly when he lost his medals. He stayed with his daughter in London the night before Thursday's service, before checking in to the Victory Services Club near Hyde Park, a hotel for serving and retired members of the Armed Forces, going to the ceremony with an old friend.

Ms Bennett said: "They got very excited, as you would. He is 80 years old, saw his old friend and got caught up in the moment of Remembrance.

"I imagine he had a few drinks somewhere and that is where it would have gone downhill, really."

The pair had lunch at an army barracks after the service and later went to a white tie dinner at the Royal Victoria (Artists) Rifles headquarters in Mayfair.

But by the time he left King's Cross station to return to Grantham at 6pm on Friday he had lost his belongings, including his wallet, and was put on a train by kindly railway staff.

Ms Bennett is appealing for help in finding her father's medals and beret, and believes he could have lost them anywhere from a taxi to the station or on the train home.

She said: "I was very upset on Friday evening, I did have a bit of a cry to myself after I traipsed around London looking for them. We are more angry with ourselves for having put him through it, really.

"An old man would be very happy if he could get them back."