Hartlepool’s MP, poppy appeal organiser and a civic chief have all blasted a vandal attack on Hartlepool’s war memorial.
Graffiti that appears to have been written in black marker pen was scrawled on the memorial in Victory Square in the town centre.
It is believed to have happened on Monday night and was quickly cleaned off by the council.
It comes just ahead of Armistice Day and when the country will commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War.
Hartlepool MP Mike Hill said: “This is truly a despicable and disgusting act of vandalism, completely disrespectful to the memory of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
“I sincerely hope those who did this are caught quickly and brought to book.”
The graffiti featured a man’s name and appeared to accuse them of being a police informer and sex offender.
Town officials are appealing for anyone with information about who was responsible to contact them.
Councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher, Chair of Hartlepool Borough Council’s Neighbourhood Services Committee, said: “We are appalled that anyone would stoop so low as to do this to a war memorial, and it is especially despicable that they have done so only days before the town’s annual Remembrance ceremony.
“The graffiti has been removed and we would appeal for anyone with any information which might help us to identify the culprit to please contact the Hartlepool Community Safety Team in confidence on 01429 523100.”
The war memorial is the focal point of Hartlepool’s remembrance commemorations with an annual service, parade and wreath laying by dignitaries, forces organisations and the community every November.
Hartlepool’s Poppy Appeal organiser Sian Cameron also told of her disappointment at the vandalism.
She said: “It is disrespectful and unnecessary. That is not what the war memorial is there for.
“It is there to honour the war fallen. It is not appropriate at any time of year but particularly at this time of year.
“It is just disappointing that someone would think that was an OK thing to do.”
Charles Humphrey, President of the Hartlepool branch of the Royal British Legion, was also dismayed.
Charles, a veteran of the Second World War, who awarded the French Legion of Honour, said: “It is absolutely ridiculous. I call them swamp artists.”