War memorial desecrated

Eddie Morton and Inspector Tim Holland next to the war memorial where a plaque containing names of Spen soldiers who died in battle has been stolen. (d15061105)
Eddie Morton and Inspector Tim Holland next to the war memorial where a plaque containing names of Spen soldiers who died in battle has been stolen. (d15061105)

THIEVES who stole a brass plaque commemorating seven Spen soldiers who died fighting for their country have been branded ‘despicable’.

The plaque was only put up two years ago after a long campaign by the Spenborough branch of the Royal British Legion to have the names added to the war memorial in Cleckheaton.

But now thieves have prised the plaque from the wall and police believe it could have already been sold to scrap dealers.

It comes as a big blow to preparations for Armed Forces week, which begins on Monday with the raising of the standard at the memorial and town hall.

Pauline Hickey, mother of Sgt Christian Hickey who was killed in Iraq in October 2005, said: “Presumably the person who has stolen it does not have a conscience. It’s just greed.

“If they do have a conscience, I hope it will get the better of them, but chances are they have already got rid of the plaque by now.”

British Legion chairman Eddie Morton said the plaque would be replaced, but not in time for the ceremony on Monday.

“It’s a despicable act for the amount of value they will get back for the plaque,” he said.

“The effect on the families of these soldiers must be indescribable.”

The theft was discovered by Kirklees Council parks staff last Friday morning. It is thought the plaque was taken the previous night.

Mr Morton said: “Just as the country is preparing to launch Armed Forces week to show support for those in the forces, these people have done the complete opposite.”

Thefts of metals like copper and brass have soared due to their escalating value and there have been many reports of the thefts of brass door handles in Spen recently.

Cleckheaton Coun Kath Pinnock (Lib Dem) said scrap dealers found with illegal items should have their licenses revoke. Coun Pinnock is urging authorities to come down hard on unlicensed wagons that collect the scrap.

Spen police chief Insp Tim Holland said: “The memorial is the centrepiece of Cleckheaton and stealing a brass plaque would have a negligible monetary value compared to the cost of replacing it and the emotional value it holds.”

The plaque bore the names of S/Sgt Edward Butler, CSM Peter Henry Lindsay, Sgt Paul Douglas Oram, Pte John Anthony Connor, Cpl Stephen Smith, Sgt Christian Ian Hickey and S/Sgt Geoffrey Fletcher, who died in the armed forces between 1948 and the present day.

Anyone with information should contact the Spen NPT on 01924 295357 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

l What do you think of the theft? Email your letters to ben.morgan@ywng.co.uk.