Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Flagpole vandalism an insult to our heroes

Article from Wales Online

A ROYAL British Legion flagpole has been felled and its Union Jack flag stolen in what officials fear could be a revenge attack over the war in Afghanistan.

Five hooded vandals waited until the bar steward locked up and left for the night before spending 15 minutes sawing down the 12ft metal pole at the Legion in Rumney, Cardiff.

The plinth beneath the flagpole, which flew the Union flag, reads: “In memory of all those who made the supreme sacrifice for our freedom. We will remember them for evermore. RIP.”

Club secretary Fred Brewis, 65, said: “It’s disgusting. With our troops abroad, these bloody imbeciles decided to hack down our quite substantial flagpole. I’m appalled.”

British legion member Lindsay John, 86, who served in the North Irish Horse Regiment during World War II, said the culprits were “bloody idiots with no respect for the servicemen who made the supreme sacrifice”.

The attack happened at 1.30am on Sunday after the Legion steward secured the property at the top of Rumney Hill for the evening after the bar shut.

CCTV footage from a camera focused on the entrance and flagpole shows five hooded figures surround the pole and lower the Union flag.

The flag is bundled up, thrown on the lawn and kicked aside. It later vanished.

One figure then climbs on the plinth and spends the next 15 minutes toppling the pole with what appears to be a hacksaw.

The vandal can be seen making a sawing motion before he and others flee towards Rumney Hill.

Club officials discovered the damage and a smashed ground- floor window on Sunday morning.

Mr Brewis, from Pentre, Rhondda, said: “They used cutters of some sort, you can see because the break is clean. The fact they came with hoods and spent 15 minutes doing it shows this wasn’t some random act of vandalism.

“It’s absolutely disgusting, particularly in view of what’s going on in Afghanistan.”

Officials believe the attack could be linked to a recent incident when two men visited the Legion asking the flag to be lowered to half mast, apparently in memory of Afghan children killed in the war which started in October 2001. Members refused and the pair went away.

But Mr Brewis, who has been secretary for seven years, believed the refusal could have sparked a revenge attack.

He branded the vandalism “an insult to all our members and all of those who have died”.

He added: “We’ve had vandalism before, but nothing to this extent. This is diabolical.

“They’ve come here and deliberately cut it down. I don’t think there’s any argument, this is some form of political statement.”

Mum-of-three Sarah Watts, whose 29-year-old brother Glen has just returned from fighting in Afghanistan with the 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh, feared the attack was symbolic. Her other brother Matt, 24, is still serving there.

Sarah, 27, of Llangynwyd, near Maesteg, said: “It’s a terrible insult to all the troops who fight and give their lives for this country.

“These soldiers are doing their jobs and should be recognised and praised. But some people have no respect.”

Susan Evans’ son Corporal Anthony Cotty, 30, serves with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers in Afghanistan.

Susan 54, of Llanrumney, Cardiff said: “I can’t believe this, it’s disgusting, they have no respect.

“These yobs don’t give other people or their families a second thought.

“They’re idiots.”

A Royal British Legion spokeswoman said it was thought to be the first such attack on a Legion club in the UK.

A South Wales Police spokeswoman confirmed an incident of criminal damage was reported at 10.45am on Sunday and said officers were due to attend the club to view CCTV footage.

She appealed for anyone with information to call 029 2022 2211, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

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