Police are investigating and appealing for information after a number of graves, the majority of which were military graves, were found desecrated as allied nations commemorated the bravery and loss of life on the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
The smashed headstones, which featured the name, rank, regimental badge, and a symbol of faith of British and Commonwealth servicemen were discovered in Shipley, West Yorkshire on June 6th, the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the massive counter-invasion of Western Europe by British, Commonwealth, U.S., and other soldiers. Pictured above are other such stones of the same design at a graveyard of war dead in northern France.
UPDATE 1800 — Crosses vandalised at the graveyard in the past
A report by local newspaper the Telegraph and Argus highlights the fact that the graveyard where the military stones were smashed has been the target for vandalism before, as symbols of the cross have been repeatedly targeted there.
A local speaking to the paper said: “It hurts my heart to see this, it’s a terrible thing to do. It’s a disgrace… For quite a while people have been going into the cemetery and stealing the Celtic crosses.
“Some have been destroyed and some have disappeared altogether. St Paul’s Church in Shipley owns the burial ground and we have given them SmartWater in the past to put on the graves to try and stop them from being stolen.”
The original story continues below
One of those graves vandalised at Shipley (Hirst Wood) Church in Yorkshire is that of Sapper J Stephenson – who died 98 years ago today. The @CWGC team have been working all day on site to repair the damage caused this week. Read more, here: https://t.co/lmKoASqJNH pic.twitter.com/1cSf2WJxGV
— WarGravesCommission (@CWGC) June 7, 2019
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission confirmed the damage to the stones and has placed temporary markers in their place while replacements are carved. The Commission said in the statement the attack on the memory of war dead who fought for Britain was deeply upsetting, noting: “It is particularly distressing that someone has shown such a complete lack of respect during the week of the D-Day 75th anniversaries, when so many tens of thousands assembled around the world to reflect and pay deserved respect to the war dead.”
They said six of the eight war graves at Hirst Wood Church Burial Ground in Shipley had been targeted. The Commission noted that one of the graves belonged to a Great War veteran who was killed in action exactly 98-years-ago to this day.
Commonwealth War Graves people have put temporary markers in to replace the vandalised head stones. They will eventually replace them with permanent stones. pic.twitter.com/h3bHUJL7Td
— Hirstwoodrg (@hirstwoodrg) June 7, 2019
The BBC reports the comments of Police spokesman Detective Inspector Amanda Middleton, who said: “The gravestones were destroyed in what was a mindless act of destruction and I would urge anyone with any information to come forward and speak to the police.
“High visibility reassurance patrols have been stepped up in the area whilst officers continue with their inquiries.” Police believe the vandalism may have happened in the day before the D-Day anniversary.
Events were held across the United Kingdom and worldwide on Wednesday including in Normandy in Northern France and the National Memorial Arboretum in England to commemorate the D-Day landings, with members of the Royal family, U.S. President Donald Trump, Prime Minister Theresa May, and President Emmanuel Macron meeting veterans.
Officers carrying out investigations after war grave damage at West Yorks burial ground. Police appealing for anyone who may have more information, about who is responsible pic.twitter.com/lkH4Icdq06
— Phil Bodmer (@philbodmer) June 7, 2019
President Trump honoured U.S. servicemen in his speech but also hailed the bravery of other allied nations, including the United Kingdom. The President said: “They were the citizens of free and independent nations united by their duty to their compatriots into millions yet unborn.
“There were the British, whose nobility and fortitude saw them through the worst of Dunkirk and the London Blitz, the full violence of Nazi fury was no match for the full grandeur of British pride.”