THE HUNT is on for a thief who went into a church, took a 100-year-old sword from a pillar, stuffed it down his trousers and smiled at a CCTV camera as he left.

The sword, taken from St Mary and All Saints' Church in Beaconsfield, was used by 23-year-old Lieutenant Robert Septimus Grenfell at the Battle of Khartoum in 1898, during which he died.

The Grenfell family owned the Wilton Park estate in Beaconsfield, which is now home to the Defence School of Languages.

Churchwarden Peter Sanders said: "We were very dismayed to find that such an historic sword had been stolen and we hope that it can be reclaimed.

"It's of great historic relevance as this is the sword Lt Grenfell was using when he was killed."

Mr Sanders said he believed whoever stole the sword intends to sell it.

It was taken during the day, when the church is left unlocked to encourage people to come in for prayer.

Cash from the collection box was also stolen.

The thefts occurred on June 8 but police spokesman Pierre du Bois said police had held back the CCTV image until now as in such cases it is often better to try to recover property using intelligence first.

The sword is an ordinary dress sword in the 1896-style, with a leather grip and a honeysuckle branch motif, in a steel scabbard.

It measures 105cm.

* Call PC Rob Mellor at Beaconsfield Police Station on 0845 8 505 505 or, if you prefer to remain anonymous, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.