A ROMSEY youth group has raised more than £4,000 for a new minibus after thieves stole and torched the club's vehicle following a raid.

Commanding officer at Romsey Sea Cadets, Dave Luce, said a gang smashed windows to break into the cadets' unit on Southampton Road and snatched the keys to the minibus, which were stored in a safe.

The burnt out remains of the vehicle - which was vital for the cadets - were later found, after firefighters tried to stop the flames in the early hours of March 9, in Upton Lane, Nursling.

Mr Luce said donations have flooded in from supporters, with the club has raising at least £4,100 since its GoFundMe page was launched on March 13.

He explained: "The amount of support we have had from the community has been absolutely overwhelming, especially in this difficult time with Covid.

"I did not expect in a couple of weeks to get to that sort of money.

"The community has come together and Rivervale Cars [a company based in Brighton] has offered to lend us a minibus."

Romsey Advertiser: The Romsey Sea Cadets' minibus that was torched

The 40-year-old added the club has been backed by other youth groups across the UK, including the Scunthorpe Sea Cadets in Lincolnshire and the Bognor Regis Sea Cadets in Sussex.

He said: "People all over the UK have offered to help and it has been fantastic.

"We have been offered help by the Scunthorpe Sea Cadets and the Bognor Regis Sea Cadets, who would have seen the story on ITV News Meridian, because it was run for a couple of days and I think that helped with the support too."

When asked when the sea cadets will be allowed to go kayaking, rowing and sailing again, Mr Luce said it will be shortly after Easter.

However, he stressed the cadets' unit may not be open again until May while repairs are made and the building has its alarm system upgraded.

As reported, Mr Luce said the minibus is vital to the youth group and is used to take the sea cadets "on courses, camps, back and forth to Shamrock Quay in Southampton and to tow trailers".

Hampshire police confirmed an investigation has been launched to find the criminals.

It is believed the burglars descended on the club between 5pm Monday (March 8), and 7am on Tuesday, according to Hampshire police.

Anyone with information should phone 101 with the reference 44210087758.

To donate to the club's cause, visit http://bit.ly/3bZ89Rz.