Devastated air cadets have started to clean up after burglars raided their base twice in less than a week.
Laptops, a minibus and more than £1,000 in cash was taken by thieves who ransacked the headquarters of the 316 Leigh squadron of the Air Training Corps, on Windermere Grove, Leigh.
The first break-in happened on Tuesday last week, when laptops belonging to the army cadets, items from the tuck shop and money was stolen.
A second burglary was discovered on Saturday afternoon, when staff arrived to take cadets to a swimming competition in Manchester.
Flt Lt Wendy McCormack said: “This time was a lot worse. They had stolen the squadron minibus and cash paid for camps. Our laptops as well, because they had broken into a number of cupboards.
“There is some damage to the building, but they have created an awful lot of mess because they have tipped everything out and gone through everything.
“It was horrible. The look of disappointment on the cadets’ faces when we said we couldn’t go swimming because we didn’t have a minibus was awful.”
The break-in happened between 10pm on Thursday and 3pm on Saturday.
Details of the burglaries were posted on social media and people were asked to look out for the minibus.
Flt Lt McCormack said: “A member of the public saw our Facebook post. The idea was to make it too hot to handle.
“A very astute member of the public spotted that it had parked near where he lived and let us know.”
She went to Siddow Common, in Leigh, and drove away in the minibus.
It was damaged so repairs will need to be carried out before it can be used.
Police are investigating the burglaries and crime scene investigators have examined the minibus and the air cadets’ headquarters.
The clean-up operation is under way, but the impact of the break-ins will still be felt.
Flt Lt McCormack said: “It has been horrific. Whilst the kids will still go on the camps they have paid for, the squadron will suffer because of the funds we will have to replace.”
The stolen laptops were used by the cadets preparing for exams.
The squadron may not even be able to meet for a few weeks while repairs and new security measures are done.
But the cadets are determined to keep going.
Flt Lt McCormack said: “Already from comments they are putting in our internal groups, they are all absolutely furious about it.
“They are already talking about how they will raise funds to replace the money themselves.”
It was business as usual on Sunday as the cadets raised money for charity Help For Heroes.
And they are preparing for a new intake of cadets on Tuesday, September 19.
A police spokesman confirmed they were investigating but no arrests have yet been made.
She appealed for anyone with information to call police on 101.