Vandals deface First World War memorial bench in St Albans
PUBLISHED: 10:25 30 January 2019
A World War One memorial bench in St Albans was defaced in a "despicable" act of vandalism.
The metal bench by the historic Verdun Tree in Waxhouse Gate, near the Cathedral, depicts a group of Tommies advancing over barbed wire towards enemy lines.
White paint was sprayed on the two largest figures at some point over the weekend of January 19 and January 20, appearing to spell out ‘Lear Fm’, which may be the vandal’s tag or street name. A depiction of red poppies to the side of the bench was untouched.
St Albans council’s parks contractor John O’Conner has now cleaned off the paint and restored the bench to its previous condition. The company waived its fee for the work out of respect to the people the bench commemorates.
The council bought the bench last year as part of commemorations throughout the city marking the centenary of the end of the First World War on November 11, 1918. The Verdun Tree near the bench grew from a conker taken from the only tree left standing in the battlefield of Verdun, one of the bloodiest clashes in the war.
St Albans Mayor Cllr Rosemary Farmer, who led the district’s Remembrance Sunday events, said: “This was a truly despicable act of vandalism that I am both upset and outraged by.
“The design of the bench is very striking, making it quite clear that it is a tribute to those who gave their lives for their country. I am furious – and I am sure the whole community will be as well – that someone could deface it in this way.
“If anyone can shed any light on who is responsible, then I would urge them to contact the police immediately. I would also like to thank our contractor for cleaning it off so quickly.”
Police have been informed about the vandalism and anyone with information is asked to contact them.
St Albans chief insp Lynda Coates said: “We are doing everything we can to trace those responsible for this crime, which has understandably caused great upset and offence within the local community.
“As part of our enquiries we are appealing to anyone who may have witnessed the incident, or anyone who has any information that may assist our investigation.
“If you can help, please call 101 quoting crime reference 41/6652/19.”