Vandals have been branded a “disgrace to society” and “sick” after scrawling obscenities on a bench in honour of South Tyneside’s Normandy Veterans.
The special hand-carved memorial, in the shape of an oak leaf, was unveiled in Jubilee Woods, Jarrow, in 2016 to mark the valour of those who fought in one of the major battles of the Second World War.
It features hand-carved poppies and is inscribed with the message ‘They shall not grow old’ on its base.
But this week, one resident, who was walking through the woods, was left sickened by the obscenities that had been scrawled across it - making reference to what appears to be the World Cup match played between England and Croatia.
A nearby sign, close to where a tree was planted by pupils of Dunn Street Primary School in 2012, was also defaced.
The woman, who asked not to be named, said: “There are no words as to how sickening and distasteful this is.
Any kind of vandalism is unacceptable but there is something particularly sickening about desecrating a memorial dedicated to the brave soldiers, sailors and airmen who fought on the beaches of Normandy, many of whom gave their lives for their country.Coun Ed Malcolm
“This bench is to honour our heroes and someone sees it fit to vandalise it. These men sacrificed their lives for our country and this is how some people have chosen to repay them.
“I hope whoever has done this is caught and have the book thrown at them. The way these men, and their heroic actions, have been disrespected by whoever has done this - it’s a disgrace.”
The graffiti which was reported to the council has since been removed. However, this is the second time within three months the bench has been vandalised.
There are currently four surviving Normandy Veterans living in South Tyneside who were part of the fighting when Allied forces landed on the beaches of northern France in 1944.
The bench was funded by the Jarrow Community Area Forum as a way of saying thank you for the part they played in protecting the country during the Second World War and in recognition of the sacrifices they made in doing so.
Coun Fay Cunningham, who is Secretary of the Normandy Veterans Association, said: “It’s disappointing that people would deface and put graffiti on something which honours the sacrifices of those who fought in the war in order for us to have a free country.
“It is just appalling. This bench means so much to so many of our veterans and their families.
“The untold horrors they would have seen while fighting on the beaches of Normandy, those images they have had to live with all of their lives, some men never come back, while others have had to live with the scars from that time - these men are heroes and yet someone thought it fit to deface something put in place in their honour, that is what makes it even more sick.
“We have four Normandy veterans still with us in South Tyneside and they will be disgusted and no doubt wonder if it was all worth it. What this person has done is unforgiveable. They are a disgrace to our society.”
Coun Ed Malcolm, South Tyneside Council’s Armed Forces champion, said: “This is incredibly disrespectful and I am disgusted by it.
“Any kind of vandalism is unacceptable but there is something particularly sickening about desecrating a memorial dedicated to the brave soldiers, sailors and airmen who fought on the beaches of Normandy, many of whom gave their lives for their country.
“I would encourage anyone who has any information about who is responsible for this to contact either the council or Northumbria Police.”
The bench has since been cleaned by South Tyneside Council.