THIEVES who ripped off and then tried to steal a brass plaque from a war memorial have left a community sickened and shocked.
Police officers followed three men after spotting them climbing over a wall into the grounds of Conisbrough Castle just after midnight on Thursday.
When they realised that they had been seen, the men dumped a crowbar and the badly-damaged brass plaque and ran off.
Officers are now appealing for information about the attempted theft from the monument, which lists the names of 174 men who gave their lives in the First World War and 58 in the Second World War.
James Beachill (67), of Conisbrough and Denaby Main Local History Group, described the act as “simply a disgrace to their memory.”said: “The list on the plaque is much more than a list of names.
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“These were young people who left our villages to live in appalling conditions in a land they’d never seen before war destroyed them.
“They did it without question for their country, their town and their families.
“When you consider that this was just two years after the Cadeby Mining Disaster in 1912 which took away another 91 men from the parish you can only guess the distress and heartache in the community at that time.
“These memories have remained to this day in many families in the parish and physically survive through this brass plaque.”
Conisbrough War Memorial, which stands in the grounds of Conisbrough Castle, lists names of those lost in World War One on the main column and plaques on either side of the monument list those lost in the Second World War.
Last November, thieves stole a similar bronze plaque from a war memorial in nearby Denaby, which cost thousands of pounds to replace.
Russ Murray, county manager for the Royal British Legion said that he was saddened by the news.
“Any war memorial has a special place within both the country and the community at large,” he said.
“They are the focus of the gratitude and respect that a community has for serving and ex-personnel, not only those who have given their lives but also for those who continue to give their lives.
“It is always saddening when a memorial is damaged but acts such as these are still mercifully rare and war memorials continue to be respected monuments.
“I just hope that justice is served through the free democracy which was made possible by those who have given their lives and gone before us.”
Insp Ray Mountford from the Doncaster West Safer Neighbourhood Team urged anyone with information to come forward to contact South Yorkshire Police on 01142 20 20 20, or contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555111, quoting incident number 26 of 29/09/2011.