Southwark's indefatigable town crier Peter Moore has been silenced after a thief stole his brass bell outside County Hall on the South Bank.
Mr Moore, town crier to Southwark, the Mayor of London and other London boroughs, was left speechless as the thief struck while he was giving directions to a foreign tourist.
He was in full regalia including tricorn hat with ostrich feathers, red waistcoat and black thigh-length boots but the bell was beside his feet.
He said: "I put the bell on the ground and was directing someone to Number 10 Downing Street and the Houses of Parliament and within seconds it was gone. I didn't see who took it, but I would urge whoever has it in their possession to return it to me as soon as possible.
Mr Moore, a familiar figure at many civic events, added: "I've been silenced and its an essential item for my job. The bell has been all around the world with me and I need it to welcome people to our city and gain their attention. It has huge sentimental value and I can't quite believe its gone."
"I need to go to the Whitechapel Foundry first thing tomorrow morning in the hope they have a replacement. Should they not, I'll be in a lot of trouble."