Oxford town crier exposed as fraud

first_imgOxford’s town crier has resigned following revelations that he lied over his military record. It emerged over the weekend that the 62 year old town crier Anthony Church had falsified his past service with the army.Despite wearing military medals and having claimed to have served as a sergeant major, Church has never worked in the armed forces. Church purported to have fought in the Falklands War with the Coldstream Guards as a regimental sergeant major. In 2010, he told BBC Oxford, “As far as getting into town crying, I’m an ex-regimental sergeant major, so I had the voice anyway.”With a voice that can reach 118 decibels, it would seem Church is well-suited to the role.An outfit of veterans known as the ‘Walter Mitty Hunters’ exposed Church. The group is dedicated to hunting down those who lie about their military record. Church bought two war medals online, a General Service Medal, and a South Atlantic Medal, and inherited a British Empire Medal from his father, Jack Church, an RAF pilot who served with distinction in the Berlin airlift.Following questioning by a Buckingham Palace courtier, Church admitted he had not won his medals himself. Church also claimed to have been awarded an OBE.The town crier has been a regular feature of Oxford life in his 12 years in the role. In 2012, he was one of three representatives from the Guild of Town Criers selected to accompany athletes to the Olympic opening ceremony.In response to the revelations, Church has apologised for his “grave error of judgement” and resigned his membership of the Loyal Company of Town Criers. He stated to The Daily Telegraph, “I was told several years ago that as the sole-surviving son I was entitled to wear the BEM and put BEM after my name.“I also wanted, with the anniversary of the Falklands and World War One, to show my solidarity for those people who had served in these campaigns and found a place I could purchase replica medals and purchased a South Atlantic medal.”The Cowley-born crier said he removed his medals “immediately” upon realising the public assumed the Empire Medal had been earned by him, not his father. He said that lying about service with the Coldstream Guards was “a moment of madness” adding “people will probably feel, with hindsight, that I have misled them. It was never my intention to cause any distress but it has backfired and cost me everything.”Church was the town crier not only for Oxford but also for the surrounding towns of Banbury, Thame, Chipping Norton, Daventry, and Wallingford. Over the course of a decade, he has become something of a local celebrity, even starring on local television in 2010. Whilst delivering public announcements, he would routinely sport these service medals.The Secretary of The Loyal Company of Town Criers, John Theman, wrote on their Facebook page, “We wish to thank The Walter Mitty Hunters Club for outing Anthony Church. His actions are deplorable and beneath contempt.”The chairman of the Oxfordshire Royal British Legion, Jim Lewendon, commented to The Daily Mail, “Wearing the medals is an insult to the bravery of the troops who served,” but added, “I can’t believe Anthony was a pretender and I hope he can put this behind him.”last_img