A KNIFE used in the trenches in the First WorldWar has been stolen from a museum.

Volunteers at the BayMilitary Museum, in Western Esplanade, Canvey, say they are devastated after the trench knife’s theft.

Allan Reed, museum volunteer, said the knife was a significant piece of Essex’s military history – and a potentially deadly weapon. He said: “It’s happened when we are commemorating 100 years since the start of the First World War.

“We are very hurt. I think whoever took it didn’t see it as a historic artefact, but as a fighting knife.

“It’s a vicious piece of equipment.”

Mr Reed was giving visitors a tour when the knife, which has a knuckle duster grip, went missing.

He said he saw two young men near the display and when he went to clean it, the knife had gone. A medal and the knife’s case were not stolen.

The museum has had all its artefacts placed behind glass since the theft, something trustees did not want to do.

Mr Reed, 65, said: “We have never had anything taken.

“This really has spoilt it for everyone, because we wanted the artefacts to be accessible to everyone.”

The knife has the markings GMH Stirling, Essex Reg 1916 inscribed on it.

Mr Reed said, through his research, he believes it had belonged to George Murray Home Stirling, who commanded the 2nd Battalion, Essex Regiment, from 1917 to 1919.

He has contacted antiques dealers, but none of them have been offered the knife.

Mr Reed said: “I just hope it doesn’t emerge in the wrong way – it is a vicious knife.

“I would love to get it back in the museum where it belongs.”

The knife was taken on Monday, May 5, between 10am and 1.15pm.

Anyone with information can call PC Lisa-Ann Gore at Rayleigh police on 101.