A COUNTY Durham man is determined to return a riding crop to the family of a Second World War hero from Oxford this Remembrance Day season.

Astley Fenwick, from Stainton village in Teesdale, doesn’t know how his mother-in-law came into possession of an antique set of golf clubs, nor, more mysteriously, how a riding crop that possibly belonged to a war hero buried at Arnhem got mixed up in the golf bag.

Sadly, his mother in law Elizabeth Harrison died more than three decades ago and can shed no light on it.

Now he is on a mission to find its rightful owner.

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The mystery began when his wife Miriam’s mother died about 38 years ago. Among her possessions was a set of golf clubs that date at least as far back as the Second World War.

Mrs Fenwick said: “She may at one point have played golf. She may have dabbled a little bit, but she never mentioned golf at all.”

She suspects her mum may have been given the set by one of the many surgeons or doctors she had worked with during her time as a nurse. The family story suggests one of the surgeons she worked with had given her an impressive cabinet as a wedding gift, so it may well have come into the family that way.

However, she could just as easily have bought it at an antique fair, Mrs Fenwick says.

The second part of the mystery emerged more recently when Mr Fenwick took a closer look at the golf clubs.

He said: “It wasn’t until about 2011 when I thought I will look at this and that is when I pulled out the stick and thought, ‘what is this?’.”

On closer inspection Mr Fenwick discovered it to be a riding stick for the Royal Artillery and etched into the top was the letter M and what appeared to be Royal Air Force wings.

Further inspection showed the name Maltby had also been etched into the stick.

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Mr Fenwick said: “It just looked like scratches. I don’t know how I noticed it.”

Mr Fenwick began his own research on the internet and discovered that a Lt Ralph Alexander Maltby was originally a soldier of the Royal Regiment of Artillery but later transferred to the Glider Pilot Regiment as an intelligence officer.

He died on his 26th birthday on September 17, 1944, after suffering a headwound while his glider was under fire from anti-aircraft guns.

He was mentioned in despatches in 1942 and received the Order of the Patriotic War (USSR) in 1944.

His original field burial was near the roadside north of Reijerskamp Farm, at Wolfheze, before he was interred permanently at Oosterbeek War Cemetery, Arnhem.

Mr Fenwick is convinced the riding stick once belonged to the war hero.

He said: “I am really just surmising it but it is the RAF connection and the artillery. He was quite a hero. It is strange, I wonder what made change from Royal Artillery to RAF. I guess I’ll never be able to answer that question.”

Attempts to gather more information by contacting the Royal Artillery Museum proved unsuccessful so the golf clubs, riding crop and research were soon forgotten.

They came to mind a few weeks ago when Mr Fenwick was clearing out his personal computer and came across a file named ‘antiques’ where he had listed the golf clubs.

Now, with Remembrance Day approaching, he aims to return the riding crop to its rightful owners.

As Lt Maltby was originally from Oxford, Mr Fenwick has written to the Oxford Mail in hope of reaching the war hero’s family.

Anyone who may know Lt Maltby’s family can contact Mr Fenwick by email at astleyfenwick@hotmail.com.