Memorial to Hucknall Afghanistan hero desecrated

KILLED ON DUTY -- Hucknall soldier Paul Sandford
KILLED ON DUTY -- Hucknall soldier Paul Sandford

SHAMEFUL vandals have desecrated a memorial in honour of a brave Hucknall soldier who was killed on the frontline while serving his country in Afghanistan.

A bench was put up on Titchfield Park in the town to remember Lance Corporal Paul Sandford, who died while on duty with the former Worcester and Sherwood Foresters in a bloody gunfight in Helmand Province in 2007.

He was aged just 23.

Now his family have been hit with even more heartache — after discovering the attack on the seat on the eve of Remembrance Sunday.

A name, which cannot be made out, has been scraped into the wooden bench, which sits just yards from the cenotaph where a poignant service to remember Hucknall’s war dead was held last Sunday.

It is the third time in the last two years the memorial to L-Cpl Sandford has been the target of wanton vandalism.

L-Cpl Sandford’s mum, Jane Saxby (49), of Norman Drive, Hucknall, said: “This is as if someone has stabbed us in the heart.

“How would they like it if it happened to a memorial to a member of their family? It is just utterly disrespectful.

“When I was told what had happened, I felt sick to the pit of my stomach. I can’t believe there are people out there who would do this.”

The damage was found by Jane’s husband, Roy. He has made repairs to the bench on the previous occasions when it has been damaged.

Holding back tears, he said: “It is just disgusting. Whoever has done this should be ashamed. There is a plaque on the seat. Everyone knows who it is for.”

L-Cpl Sandford was killed during his second tour of duty in war-torn Afghanistan. He died just two weeks before he was due to return home to his young wife.

The well-known former pupil of Holgate Comprehensive School in Hucknall had wanted to be a soldier since the age of 11.

A keen boxer, he was shot dead during an operation to clear a Taliban compound in the Upper Gereshk Valley.

His family, including dad Terry and widow Gaynor, paid tribute to him as a hero.

L-Cpl Sandford’s death has inspired the annual Party In The Park concert held in Hucknall to raise funds for the Help For Heroes charity.

His name is also remembered on a plaque added to the Titchfield Park cenotaph.

Said Jane: “I cannot go down there and see my son’s bench like that. It breaks my heart.

“Our pain is never going to go away. Remembrance Sunday is bad enough, it just brings the hurt back. But to have this on top is just overbearing. It made me ill when I found out.”

The first time the bench was vandalised was with marker pens. It was then attacked with pens and stickers. It is not known how the latest graffiti was carved.

Hucknall’s rector, the Rev Kathryn Herrod, who led the Remembrance Sunday service, said: “I can fully understand why the family of L-Cpl Sandford are distraught.

“This damage says something very negative about a very small proportion of our community.”

Hucknall’s police chief, Insp Nick Butler, said: “There is no worse crime than desecrating a memorial like this.

“The people of Hucknall are incredibly proud of our brave soldiers and the work they do, as am I.

“We will find out who has done this. I will personally oversee the investigation and make sure that when they do go to court, the full feelings of Mr Sandford’s family are represented.

“It is disgusting, and anyone who knows anything must get in touch.”

Anyone with information about the vandal-attack should ring the police on their new non-emergency number, which is 101.

Alternatively, call the free and confidential Crimestoppers hotline on 0800 555111.