War graves in a London cemetery have been defaced by vandals using spray paint.
The graves – of Australian soldiers who died during the First World War – are in Harefield churchyard in the Hillingdon area. They are some of 120 First World War graves on the site, mostly commemorating soldiers who died at the Australian Auxiliary Hospital at nearby Harefield Park.
Jane Palmer, a Conservative councillor for Hillingdon, said such a callous act of vandalism had brought tears to her eyes. One local resident, 67-year-old Albert Gordon, added: ‘I was shocked to see the graffiti. It’s some sort of blue squiggles or possibly writing, but either way it’s a disgrace. These men died to help Britain and this is how the country’s modern-day residents repay them.’
Local newspaper the Uxbridge Gazette reports this is the second case of vandalism directed at First World War graves this year. On the eve of the Gallipoli centenary, a memorial in the cemetery was sprayed with paint and an Australian flagpole was hacked into with an axe or cleaver.
The 1st Australian Auxiliary Hospital opened in June 1915. It contained around 1,000 beds and was used to treat soldiers who had been wounded in France and Belgium. The cemetery at Harefield contains unusual, scroll-shaped headstones – a design chosen by staff and patients at the hospital.
For more about the hospital, click here.