A WILLOW sculpture of a soldier stolen by thieves is ‘back on duty’ after it was found dumped in bushes.

Veterans pleaded for information when ‘Tommy’ was stolen from Healey Corner, in Whitworth, two weeks ago.

The wicker man, along with a tank sculpture, was created by Haslingden-based charity Veterans In Communities member David Joddrell, from Bacup, to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of World War One.

VIC outreach and comm- unity development officer Suzanne Preston said: “We were contacted through the Facebook page Making Whitworth a Great Place to Live by Stephen Scrivens, who said he had seen the sculp- ture discarded in bushes in Heywood.”

Stephen, a gardener from Heywood, brought the sculpture back to David Chorlton, in Whitworth, and Tommy was reunited with Suzanne in the town’s Red Lion pub.

Stephen said: “When I saw it, it just looked like a pile of sticks but, when I went closer, I could see it was a soldier.

“One of my customers told me about the missing sculpture and I realised what it was.

“I am so happy to have been able to return it because it means a lot to people, and I have a lot of time for veterans. There is so much community spirit around here.”

Suzanne said: “We got Tommy a pint in the pub.

“After his ordeal we thought it was the least we could do.

“We have no idea who stole the sculpture, or why, but a lot of good has come from its disappear ance.

“It has made everyone aware of the First World War centenary, raised awareness of our work in VICm and the commemorations we are involved.

“And it has brought the town together to look for Whitworth’s lost soldier.

“So, unwittingly, the thief has done some good, not that we want Tommy to disappear again.”

The charity has a licence to display the tank and soldier on land next to the main road at Healey Corner for the four-year duration of the commemorations.