When Douglas David Higham’s treasured war medal was stolen in the 1960s, he and his family feared they would never see it again.
They tried years to find it, but sadly he died in 1986 without ever recovering his Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC).
However, the special honour has now finally been returned to the Higham family - more than 50 years later.
His eldest son John, 73, said: "I think my dad would be amazed."
Douglas, known as Dougie, was one of six brothers who served in the Second World War. He joined the RAF in 1939 and was a rear gunner on Sunderlands in the Middle East, then an air gunner on bombers in Germany.
He was awarded the DFC in 1945 for his "determination and continued devotion to duty" after completing more than 160 sorties, some of which saw the aircraft hit.
Dougie returned to Wigan after being demobbed and worked as a fruiterer and florist, eventually having shops across the borough.
His brothers also returned and one, William, later left money in his will to pay for military bands to perform at Mesnes Park.
But Dougie’s pride at receiving his medal turned to dismay when his home on Ormskirk Road, Newtown, was targeted by burglars in the sixties and a wooden box was taken containing the war medal and a letter of congratulations from King George VI.
John, of Wigan Road, Standish, said: "He always said he wanted to find it. He thought somebody would sell it because it had his name on.
"I have always looked for it. Since computers have been about, you can search for these things and I have always searched for DD Higham and there was nothing."
John’s son even bought him an official copy of the DFC while he searched for it.
A few weeks ago he got a message online from a dealer saying he was trying to sell medals and asking if he could use photographs of his father.
Amazingly he had Dougie’s DFC and his letter from the King.
John immediately paid £1,450 for the medal, along with other medals similar to those given to his father and papers with information about his war service.
While John admits it was a lot of money to pay, he could not miss the opportunity to get the DFC.
He said: "It’s absolutely marvellous to have it back. My brother and sisters were delighted. Everybody is so pleased - it’s not just our family but everyone we tell.
"It’s a long time to have wanted something and for it to be lost without a chance of finding it."
John has asked how the dealer got the DFC, but is not confident he will be able to find out where it has been for the past 50 years. But he is delighted to have recovered his father’s treasured medal and hopes to put it at the centre of a display in his memory.