War graves commemorating soldiers who fought in the first and second world wars were targeted earlier this week at a cemetery in Shipley.
A spokesman for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission said it was “incredibly disheartened” by the vandalism, believed to have affected six of the eight war graves at Hirst Wood burial ground.
He said: “We are deeply upset that someone has shown such a complete lack of respect on the 75th anniversary of D-day, a day when so many tens of thousands assembled around the world to reflect and pay deserved respect to the war dead.
“This is thoughtless vandalism and our staff have recently arrived at the cemetery to assess the full extent of the damage.”
He said staff would clear away debris and lay temporary markers. “We will ensure all the damaged war graves at Hirst Wood are returned to a state befitting their sacrifice and continue to care for them now and always.”
Det Insp Amanda Middleton, of West Yorkshire police, said: “The gravestones were destroyed in what was a mindless act of destruction and I would urge anyone with any information to come forward and speak to the police.
“High visibility reassurance patrols have been stepped up in the area whilst officers continue with their inquiries.”
A local regeneration group said it was impossible to understand the “callous thoughtlessness” of the vandals whose destruction was discovered on Thursday, when D-day commemorations were held across the world. No civilian graves were targeted.
One of the damaged graves was that of Driver Arthur Sheard, who died at a military hospital on 22 May 1918, aged 30, after being wounded in action. He was buried with full military honours alongside his daughter Hilda, who died, aged four, the day after her father. Sheard’s headstone was smashed into four pieces.
Pauline Bradley-Sharp, the secretary of Hirst Wood Regeneration Group, said the damage was a disgrace. “It hurts my heart to see this, it’s a terrible thing to do,” she told the Bradford Telegraph & Argus. “I haven’t got anyone in the burial ground but we are all affected by this, and it must be horrible for the families who have got their heroes buried there.
“D-day is a very important day for us all and it is just dreadful what they have done. If I could get hold of the people responsible I would give them a good smack round the ear.”