THE graves of war heroes buried at Radnor Street cemetery had their recognition restored after new signs were erected yesterday to replace those damaged by vandals.
During the weekend two of the three signs put up by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission were vandalised.The signs recognise the 104 servicemen interred in the Kingshill cemetery.
The commission acted fast to install new signs, which will help commemorate the centenary of the First World War later this year.
Andy Knowlson, west of England regional supervisor for the CWGC, moved to repair the damage as soon as possible.
“We have now repaired the broken sign and located another which was slightly damaged, which we have also replaced,” he said.
“A chunk was taken out of one, but there is another where you can see from behind they have tried to bend it over.
“Everything is now back to normal, and hopefully it will remain that way.”
He said that, of 13,000 war grave sites around the country, Swindon was the first example of vandalism to any of the signs.
“It is very important because we are trying to create a message that there are war graves in these sites, as we are with all locations,” he said.
“I live fairly locally, and it happened that I had other work to look at in the area. Instances such as this occur very rarely, and this is the first I have been aware of, but I was very keen to replace it as soon as possible.
“I was obviously very upset when I heard what had happened, and slightly surprised. We have 13,000 other locations, and this is the first time anything of this nature has happened. I was upset that we had gone to the trouble of putting them up to raise awareness and there has been this element of vandalism. But that will not stop us in doing what we want to do in commemorating the war casualties.”
He hopes tighter measures would not be needed to protect the cemetery. “Hopefully that will be the end of the matter,” he said. “The sign is very simplistic in the way in which it is put together, and there is absolutely no intrinsic value in the material. In this case, if it were to happen again we would look at other materials we could use.”
Graham Carter, editor of Swindon Heritage magazine, is shocked at the vandalism.
He said: “The initial feeling is one of anger and then you do wonder whether the person responsible could be familiar with the sacrifices the 104 servicemen in that cemetery gave.
“Even if the person responsible doesn’t agree with war they should respect those 104 people.
“I’m amazed that if anyone has heard the stories of the First and Second World War that they would do something like this. I think there may have been a failure in education here. They need to be sat down in the classroom and taught how wrong this vandalism is.”