A community has been left heartbroken after callous thieves stole metal war memorial plaques from outside a church.
For decades, two bronze plaques containing the names of all the men from Bunbury killed in both world wars have been displayed on sandstone pillars outside St Boniface Church in the village, as a respectful tribute to the local fallen heroes.
But over the weekend, heartless vandals prised off the metal memorials; leaving the village with no official war memorial, less than two months before Remembrance Sunday.
Church warden David Kendrick said the village has been left ‘extremely distressed’ as many families of the men named on the plaques still live in Bunbury.
“It is just so sad that people feel they could desecrate a memorial which would provide them very little monetary gain,” he said. “We are just so upset. The plaques were very secure and have been there for years. There is damage to the sandstone pillars too.
“The plaque was our War Memorial for the village and obviously with Remembrance Sunday coming up soon we are very concerned about what will happen but sadly this kind of thing is happening all over the country.”
Revd. Tim Hayward, vicar of St Boniface, said his telephone hasn’t stopped ringing, with members of the community expressing their ‘upset and disgust’ at the thefts.
“These plaques provide a point of remembrance for the village to pay respects and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can live in an open and free society.
"Maybe this is the price we have to pay for such a society by suffering these indignities from people who have no respect for the endeavours of others and display a callous disregard for what so many people hold dear,” he added.
Mike Rogers, president of Bunbury’s Royal British Legion, said it was a ‘vain hope’ that the thieves might find it within themselves to return the plaques but ‘one would like to hope’.
“The community and British Legion are deeply saddened that anyone could sink so low as this. We are not a million miles away from Remembrance Sunday and that will be particularly poignant without these plaques,” he added.
“But the fact that the plaques aren’t there doesn’t mean the men are forgotten. It will take time to replace them but by hook or by crook, we will.”
A Cheshire police spokesperson said: “Police were called at 6.10pm on Sunday, September 17, to reports of brass memorial plates having been stolen from gates at a church on Bowes Gate Road in Bunbury.
"Enquiries are ongoing and anyone with any information is asked to call 101 quoting incident 698 of 17 September.”