Fury at theft from Blackpool forces memorial
Forces veterans have labelled thieves 'Despicable' after shrubs planted at the Fylde Memorial Arboretum were dug up and stolen.
Two flowering bushes donated by a standard bearer were taken from near the Changi Gate memorial to those who served in Burma and the Far East in the Second World War.
The bushes were donated shortly after the death of D-Day veteran Don Aiken a year ago this week, one of the driving forces behind the creation of the arboretum.
Paul Binns, chairman of the Fylde Ex-servicemen’s Liaison Committee said: “Everyone is very upset it is disgraceful.
“This has happened just before Armed Forces Weekwhen we have a serivce there and in the 100th anniversary year of the end of the First World War.
“Those bushes were like gate guardians for the Changi Gate. which was built with the help of Blackpool and the Fylde College.
“A lot of people put a lot of effort into keeping this nice and this happens.”
Coun Chris Ryan, who is Blackpool Council’s Armed Forces Champion, said: “It is a despicable act and an insult to the memorial to all our ex-servicemen who gave so much for this country.
“Those bushes were donated in memory of Don Aiken who was at D-Day and who was one of the three people who founded the arboretum.
“They had over-wintered and were just about to flourish. It is very upsetting.”
Ex-serviceman Ian Hindle who tends the arboretum daily said the bushes were stolen sometime between Monday and Tuesday morning.
He said: “It shows a total lack of respect. I suppose someone who comes in here has seen them and wanted them for their garden. How could they do it?
"They must know this is a memorial area. I am pig sick. They were just starting to get established and we were all looking forward to seeing them flower.”
The arboretum was unveiled in February 2009 after a £14,000 grant from the Forestry Commission English Woodland Grant Scheme and funds from First TransPennine Express.
It has more than 2,500 trees and is looked after by members of the Fylde Ex-Service Liaison Committee.
It is divided into a series of areas including the Services Glade, Millennium Grove, the Jim Houldsworth Bower and a community woodland.
The Changi Gate scale replica was put in for the Armistice day ceremony in November 2017 to honour those who fought and died in the Far East.