Published: 00:01, 08 November 2018
"Silent Silhouettes" of soldiers to commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War have been vandalised and stolen.
The life-size figures, mostly depicting Tommies, have been placed across the country to thank the First World War generation who served, sacrificed, rebuilt and changed the nation; a tribute to the fallen British and Commonwealth armed forces who lost their lives in the bloody conflict.
Some were placed across the Hoo Peninsula but in a spate of vandalism, one has been snatched from Allhallows and another in Chattenden sliced in half.
There have also been reports of "primary school age children" kicking a cut-out silhouette in Main Road, Hoo.
A spokesman for the Royal British Legion, which launched the project, said it was "saddened and shocked" by the incidents.
Over the weekend, people in Allhallows noticed the emotive reminder to those coming in and out of the village had disappeared.
Chris Fribbins, Allhallows Parish Council clerk, said: “It was put there for a reason, so that people saw it as they came into the village
“We are only a small village and we lost 11 people to the war.
“I really don’t know what goes through people’s minds to do something like this. What use is it to anyone?”
Rev Stephen Gwilt, the vicar of All Saints’ Church, said: “I haven’t got a clue who would want to this. It’s just mindless vandalism.
“I am very disappointed this has happened, but we have to carry on regardless.”
Hoo parish councillor Michael Pearce, who has helped to repair the damage, said it was both worrying and disturbing.
“I don’t know whether it is about young people not understanding what they represent, or they are just being rebellious," he said.
“There are 10,000 people living on the peninsula, but it only takes three of four to cause this upset.”
The Silent Silhouettes have been made by Britain’s Bravest Manufacturing Company, a social enterprise run by Royal British Legion Industries in Aylesford.
"We are only a small village and we lost 11 people to the war" - Chris Fribbins
Money raised goes towards a range of mental health and armed forces charities.
BBMC employs more than 100 people and more than 70% are veterans, live with a disability, or both.
One of the men who builds the Tommies is Anil Gurung who joined the Army in 2006 as a rifleman with the 2nd Royal Gurkha Regiment.
He lost his leg after stepping on an explosive device.
RBL spokesman Natasha Glenville said: “The legion’s Silent Soldiers offer communities a way to commemorate not only those members of the Armed Forces who died in the First World War, but all those who came home, often with physical and mental scars, to rebuild the nation we have today.
“It is sad and shocking to hear that a figure that honours the memory of Armed Forces personnel who defended the freedom we enjoy today has been stolen or damaged.”