Smart guarding against thieves

Fabulous Fylde feature on Kirkham.'War memorial.
Fabulous Fylde feature on Kirkham.'War memorial.

FYLDE’S war memorials are to be protected against the threat of metal thieves.

As metal prices soar, thieves nationally have been looking to take advantage by targeting plaques and other features of the UK’s estimated 100,000 war memorials, according to conservation group the War Memorials Trust.

Now, Fylde Council officials, in conjunction with Lancashire Police, are making sure the plaques on Fylde memorials are protected as part of a general clampdown on metal theft getting underway today.

Metal plaques on historic memorials at St Annes, Kirkham and Wesham will all be marked with SmartWater, which, although invisible to the naked eye, can be used to track down the metal if it is stolen.

“These are vital parts of the Fylde’s history and it is important that we protect them against potential theft,” said Fylde Council’s community safety manager Bryan Ward.

“These memorials are three we have identified so far and more could possibly follow.”

Michael Turner, Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal organiser for the Kirkham and Wesham area, said: “Anything which can deter these thieves — and the dealers who work with them — has to be welcomed.

“It is despicable that anyone can even think of taking such an important part of history. These plaques bear the names of people who gave their lives for this country and I cannot understand how anyone can be so callous as to take them for financial gain.”

The War Memorials Trust estimates that one monument is vandalised per week for its bronze, copper or other metal, despite them having “relatively little value” and has launched a campaign to protect all memorials in the run-up to the 100th anniversary of World War I in two years’ time.

“The loss of a memorial plaque means, in effect, you’ve lost a touchstone to your history that you may never get back,” said Trust director Frances Moreton.

SmartWater treatment means that if metal from a memorial is stolen and taken to a scrapyard anywhere in the country, police can locate exactly which one it is and where it has been stolen from. Also, a thief who tries to remove SmartWater risks inadvertently spreading forensic evidence on to their clothes and any tools. This can be used by police to link a suspect directly to the crime scene.