MEMBERS of a social club were left “devastated” after a Tommy soldier statue was cut down and stolen in the middle of the night.

A number of six-foot high wooden Tommy soldiers were placed around the grounds of South Benfleet Social Club, at Vicarage Hill, for Armed Forces Day.

When vice president of the club, Martin Waterfield, from Benfleet, attempted to put the statues back into storage until November for Armistice Day, he noticed one of them was missing.

The 58-year-old said: “On Tuesday, myself and other members of the club began to put the statues away when we noticed one was missing.

“So we checked the CCTV and could see that someone had come along from Benfleet train station around 4.30am and cut the soldier down before walking off down the High Road with it.

“It is very upsetting.

“Everyone at the club is devastated.

“We had them out for Armed Forces Day with loads of bunting and flags – the lot.

“So for someone to just then do that is terrible.

“We have never had any problems like this before.”

Mr Waterfield went on to explain how the club, which has 680 members, is committed to helping a variety of charities, especially Help for Heroes, and the Poppy Appeal.

He added: “The members are deeply saddened by this event and it’s just off putting now.

“Why should we have to bring them in every night because we are worried they might get stolen?

“We contacted the police who have since confirmed they received a call from a member of the public who saw a man walking around Benfleet holding one of the soldiers.

“You can’t exactly miss it, it sticks out like a sore thumb.”

Essex Police confirmed they were investigating and visited the club yesterday morning to obtain CCTV and make enquiries.

Police would like to hear from anyone who can identify the thief

Anyone with information should contact Essex Police on 101.