Vandals have destroyed the graves of fallen British soldiers in the run up to the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, which took place yesterday (June 6).
A group of yobs reportedly smashed the graves in a mindless rampage, ruining several stones which remembered war heroes who fought in the First and Second World Wars.
The act is believed to be deliberate as only the military graves were touched; several nearby civilian plots were not targetted.
The vandalised graves were discovered yesterday (June 6) in Hirst Wood Burial Ground in Shipley, West Yorkshire, as the world commemorated those who fought in the largest combined land, air and naval operation in history.
Those behind the incident have been branded a ‘disgrace,’ with West Yorkshire Police currently investigating the incident which is reported to have happened between 11am on Monday, June 3 and the evening of Tuesday, June 4.
The gravestones destroyed include those of leading Aircraftman Frank Whittaker, WWII driver Arthur Sheard, and Sgt Gunner Peter William Bilsborough. The incident is being treated as criminal damage.
Arthur Sheard, from Saltaire, Shipley, died at the age of 30 in 1918 after being injured in the field. He was buried with full military honours alongside his four-year-old daughter Hilda, who died the day after her father. His headstone was smashed into four pieces.
The grave of leading aircraftman Frank Whittaker, who died on May 25, 1944, at the age of 40, was also smashed to pieces by vandals.
A headstone commemorating Sgt Gunner Peter William Bilsborough, who died at the age of 21 on November 27, 1941 and was buried at sea, was pushed over.
Members of the local community were horrified when they heard about the disturbance, with Councillor Martin Love – of the Green Party in Shipley – saying the damage was ‘beyond comprehension’.
Councillor Love said:
It’s shocking any gravestones can be vandalised in this way, and it’s particularly shocking they are war graves on a day like today.
This is a totally unnecessary crime, it is quite sickening really. What on earth makes someone want to do that? It is beyond comprehension
Pauline Bradley-Sharp, secretary of Hirst Wood Regeneration Group, said:
Some people have got no respect for families’ feelings. It hurts my heart to see this, it’s a terrible thing to do. It’s a disgrace.
I haven’t got anyone in the burial ground but we are all affected by this, and it must be horrible for the families who have got their heroes buried there.
D-Day is a very important day for us all and it is just dreadful what they have done. If I could get hold of the people responsible I would give them a good smack round the ear.
Another member of the group, Richard Coomber, agreed, describing what happened as ‘deliberate’ and ‘disgusting’.
Detective Inspector Amanda Middleton of West Yorkshire Police confirmed the investigation is ongoing, urging anyone with information to come forward and speak to the police.
High visibility reassurance patrols have been stepped up in the area while officers continue with their inquiries.
Anyone who witnessed this incident or has any information is asked to contact Bradford District Police via 101 quoting log number 952 of June 6.
Information can also be passed to independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).