“WHY would you do that?”
That was the dismayed reaction from the chairman of a navy charity’s Christchurch branch after vandals decapitated a First World War centenary silent sailor tribute.
The aluminium silhouette, erected on the recreation ground off Barrack Road last year to commemorate the Great War’s end in 1918, is believed to have been targeted during Sunday night.
Rick Squibb, who fronts the Royal Naval Association’s local group, condemned the offenders’ actions, branding them “so disrespectful”.
He even placed a notice on the headless figure in a bid to remind those responsible of the sacrifices made in the 1914-18 conflict by the servicemen it represents.
The notice began with the words “For your tomorrow, they gave their today” – a paraphrasing of part of the famous Second World War epitaph to the fallen of April 1944’s Battle of Kohima, adding: “We will remember them.”
It then defiantly stated: “Your mindless vandalism will not deter us from remembering those who gave so much for your freedom.”
Speaking to the A&T, Mr Squibb said he went to survey the damage on Monday after being alerted to the vandalism by posts on Facebook.
Following a search, council ground workers discovered the silent sailor’s severed head dumped in the gardens by the nearby Fountain roundabout. This was where vandals had also upturned a number of flower display troths over the weekend.
Mr Squibb speculated the offenders would have taken some time bending the silhouette backwards and forwards at the neck in order to remove the head.
“When I went down to see it I had a lump in my throat – I just thought, how could they do it?
“On Facebook there have been a lot of angry emojis and comments from people in response to the damage, but for me it was just sad.”
The RNA branch had purchased the silhouette from the Royal British Legion for £250 as part of the First World War centenary commemorations.
It was set to be removed during the week following the vandalism, with the intention that it could be repaired within days.
Mr Squibb commented it was hoped a garage owner or welder might offer to carry out the repair free of charge due to the RNA’s charity status and the sentimental value of the silhouette.
“When I was putting the notice on the sailor, a lady walking past said she was disgusted,” he continued.
“She said her father had served in the Navy, and every time she saw the silent sailor she would salute it.
“We’re all gutted and dismayed. It’s the disbelief that someone would do that. It’s so disrespectful.”
The chairman added the silent sailor may be relocated to a site by the Fountain roundabout where there is more CCTV coverage.
Police are investigating the sailor’s beheading, with people being urged to come forward if they witnessed any suspicious activity.
Anyone with information should contact Dorset officers on 101, quoting crime reference number 55190100289, or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.