A PLAQUE which was vandalised more than 40 years ago leaving the county's Far East Prisoners of War heartbroken will finally be put back on public display in an Oxford church.

The tribute, made in memory of Oxfordshire's PoWs, was vandalised after being fixed to a tree in South Park in 1973.

It was recovered by Tommy Bowen, who was held captive by the Japanese in Chiangi prison between 1942 and August 1945.

After more than 40 years in a wardrobe in Cowley Mr Bowen's son John came forward with the plaque following an article in the Oxford Mail and the Church has finally approved its installation at St Michael at the North Gate in Cornmarket Street.

Mr Bowen, whose father died in 1999 aged 92, said: "My sister and I were delighted to hear the plaque is being put to good use.

"When it was vandalised it was a bit of a blow and although my father was a quiet man I knew he was very upset by it.

"He would be very pleased to know that after all these years it's going to be in such good hands with the church and it will somewhere we can visit at any time to remember him by."

The plaque was temporarily erected on the 70th anniversary of Victory over Japan Day in August last year but earlier this month it was permanently approved by the Parochial Council and the Diocesan Advisory Committee.

Linda Peach's father Ivo Poulter was physically abused as a PoW for three-and-a-half years on the Island of Celebes and was even forced to dig his own grave.

The 66-year-old said the vandalism left her father, who returned to work as a postman in Iffley after the war, heartbroken.

She said: "It's nice that the plaque will be put somewhere safe and I'm glad they will all be remembered here in Oxford.

"My dad was at the originally unveiling and it was heartbreaking for all the FEPOWs to learn it had been vandalised."

Trish Fergusson and her husband Ian were the driving force behind the permanent plaque and the retired teacher said her father Les Long, a PoW first in Singapore and then in Japan from February 1941 until liberation day, would be "proud" of the news.

She said: "My father would have been at the unveiling of the original plaque as he was heavily involved in all the association's work.

"He would be very proud to see that after all these years we will have somewhere to remember him and all the others Far East POWs from Oxfordshire."

Mr Long returned to Oxford after the war where he worked as a city policeman before becoming the landlord of The White Hart in Marston until his death in 1984 aged 65.

Mrs Fergusson added: "I have visited the National Memorial Arboretum several times but my father was an Oxford man born and bred so it's nice to have something here."

A ceremony will be arranged at the city centre church to officially unveil the plaque in the coming weeks and hopefully in time for VJ Day on August 14.