THE honour rolls on Tamworth’s memorial gates at Anzac Park have been desecrated, just hours before thousands will gather there for the city’s dawn service.
Three of the four honour rolls were vandalised, while the edges of the gates were also damaged. One name, Private Reginald Fleming, seemingly copped the brunt of the attack – records show Pvt Fleming’s name is incorrectly spelt on the memorial as “Flemming”.
Due to the uniform size of the holes, it’s believed someone used a battery-operated impact drill to cause the damage sometime on Monday.
Tamworth RSL sub-branch president Bob Chapman has described the attack as “senseless, malicious and disrespectful”.
“It’s a bloody shock horror, particularly on the eve of Anzac Day,” he told The Leader.
“To desecrate one of our memorials, particularly World War One, is incredible, it’s just unbelievable.
“Someone has decided that they want to go against everything we and the Tamworth people believe in, and that’s remembering the people on this memorial.”
The Leader alerted Tamworth Regional Council of the vandalism, who had not been notified on the damage.
While the damage may seem small, the repair bill could be substantial, as marble is difficult to work with and each honour roll impacted may have to be replaced.
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Mr Chapman said the RSL would work with council to refurbish the memorial, but it's not the cost Mr Chapman is concerned about.
“It’s the knowing that someone has done something so disrespectful to what this memorial represents,” he said.
Tamworth police are investigating and Mr Chapman hopes someone may have seen something suspicious.
“I honestly believe that it would be some person who doesn’t realise the significance of what they’re doing,” he said.
“It’s criminal and it’s certainly an offence punishable by law.
“I certainly hope they get caught just to be a warning to other people who think they can vandalise sacred memorials.”
Mr Chapman admitted that the “vandalism of the highest order” would be on his mind during this year’s Anzac Day dawn service, but the show would go on.
“I think this will make us more determined than ever,” he said.
“We will do what we do every year, which is commemorate the day and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.”
The honour rolls were only recently refurbished in 2015 to mark the centenary of the Gallipoli campaign.
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Who was Private Reginald Fleming?
The name nearly wiped off the honour roll in the attack is that off Private Reginald Fleming.
Private Fleming, born in Tamworth in 1890, was a machine gunner in the 42nd Infantry Battalion
He was working as a labour in Toowoomba before he enlisted in September 1916. He arrived in France less than a year later, and fought in the trenches of Belgium for three months.
In March 1918, Pvt Fleming was part of the 42nd Battalion's charge south in to France, and he fought in the area around the railway junction Amiems.
At the end of May, Pvt Fleming received a shell wound and mustard gas poisoning, and was admitted to hospital for treatment.
He returned to the lines in July 1918 , just in time to take part in a major offensive near Hamel. It was there that he was killed in action on August 25, 1918.
There is no mention in his army file about his burial, no known grave is recorded and it would seem that Reginald's body was never recovered. His name is listed on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial in France.
Information courtesy of the Tamworth RSL sub-branch and Sandra Lambkin.