“Desecration of the memory of those who gave of their lives for peace and freedom” - vicar speaks out over war plaques theft
07:00 06 February 2013
The memory of 11 villagers who died in the first world war has been desecrated by the theft of two plaques commemorating the conflict.
The brass memorials show scenes from the nativity and crucifixion, and were erected on the wall of All Saints Church in Narborough, near Swaffham, in 1919, together with a list of the men who died in battle.
The thieves caused £1,000 of damage when they broke in through a window between 6pm on Thursday, January 31, and 9.30am on Friday, February 1.
Rev Stuart Nairn discovered the theft when he opened the church on Friday morning.
He said: “There is the upset of the church being invaded in this way, and the much greater upset at the desecration of the memory of those of the first world war who gave of their lives for peace and freedom.
“Police seem to agree that it looks like these have been stolen to order as nothing else in the church was disturbed except the window they broke. We do feel they have very much been stolen for their artistic value.”
Rev Nairn announced the theft at his Sunday morning service in Castle Acre, and said parishioners were upset by the news.
He said: “People are generally appalled. I have been a parish priest here for 25 years and it is the first time we have had anything of this particular nature happen.”
Narborough Parish Council chairman David Williams said it was especially disappointing as the plaques were particular to the village.
Det Sgt Pete Jessop, of the Radar team, whose brief includes rural crime and metal theft, said metal theft fell across the whole country last year, but there had been an increase in heritage crimes.
He said there was a secondhand market for this type of plaque, and churches across the county had been victims.
He said: “We take it very seriously because of the heritage value and the value to the church.
“The theft of a plaque has far reaching implications around the community.”
He said scrapyards would be notified, and in previous cases their actions have helped police make arrests when people tried to sell stolen items.
Rev Nairn said the church would stand firm, and added: “The important thing about churches is they are open for people to come in and pray. That has to be their prime purpose and we are not shaken from that purpose.”
Anyone with information should contact PC Joanna Higgins at Dereham police station on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.