Anger over war grave vandalism

George Robinson holds grave records for Shotton Colliery cemetery as Shotton Parish councillors (left to right) Ivan Cochrane, Hugh High and Christoper Dand look over the grave of Private W B Walker
George Robinson holds grave records for Shotton Colliery cemetery as Shotton Parish councillors (left to right) Ivan Cochrane, Hugh High and Christoper Dand look over the grave of Private W B Walker

PARISHIONERS were left disgusted after a First World War grave and a memorial to a four-month-old baby were wrecked by vandals.

A headstone belonging to a Durham Light Infantry serviceman was pushed over and an engraved stone pot in memory of a baby born in 1940 was found on an embankment close to the graveyard at St Saviour’s Church, in Shotton Colliery.

The war grave of Private WB Walker, no 96323, who died on July 7, 1918, aged 25, was knocked over.

The baby whose grave was desecrated was Richard Stark who died aged four months old on May 19, 1940.

Reverend David Boddy, from St Saviour’s, said: “It’s appalling that the two stones to have been affected are a war grave and a baby’s grave.

“Any damage in there is bad, but when it’s people who gave their lives and kiddies who died before they have seen life, it’s absolutely shocking.”

Concerned parish council bosses want to hear from the family of the baby, so the pot can be re-dedicated during a service and placed back on the correct grave.

Shotton parish councillor Ivan Cochrane was alerted about the vandalism after the baby’s pot was found by lads carrying out community service on Monday.

He said: “Every time I go to the cemetery, I find some form of vandalism, whether slight or large.

“The people doing this don’t realise the graves could belong to their relatives. It’s just wanton vandalism.”

Coun Cochrane, who is also a local funeral director, added: “The vicar is going to re-consecrate the grave and the council will place flowers on it.

“I think it could be a Haswell family and I want them to get in touch.”

He said three other headstones had been damaged when he went to investigate.

Coun Cochrane holds the records for the location of graves in the cemetery, but has not yet been able to locate the plot of the baby’s resting place.

The pot was cleaned up by Scott Memorials, in Seaham.

Shotton parish councillor Hugh High, who served with the RAF from 1950 to 1952, said: “I feel very hurt.

“Men gave their lives for this country and whoever has done this can’t show them a bit of respect.

“I feel horrified and disgusted about the baby’s grave as well, it’s just mindless vandalism.”

The war grave must be repaired by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

A Durham Police spokeswoman said local beat officer PC Steve Rowe is aware of the vandalism and is looking into it.

Anyone with information is urged to call Durham Police on 101.

Relatives of the baby are asked to call Coun Cochrane on (0191) 5170022.