KEIGHLEY'S Town Hall Square cenotaph was damaged, just two months before major planned commemorations to mark 100 years since the end of the First World War.

The bayonet on the rifle of the statue facing towards North Street was deliberately bent in an incident believed to have happened over the weekend of September 1/2. Serving and ex-service personnel in Keighley condemned the vandalism as a "disgrace".

And the chairman of the Keighley Town Council committee responsible for maintaining this area condemned both this and the behaviour of people who have ripped up plants from the flower beds surrounding the memorial, and used a corner of the award-winning square as an open-air toilet.

Ingrow resident Andy Spence, a former infantryman who now serves in the reservist 212 Field Hospital based in Leeds, said he first learned of the damage to the cenotaph on social media early last week.

Last Monday (Sept 3) he and Luke Davison, an ex-soldier and member of Keighley Armed Forces Association, visited the cenotaph and managed to carefully bend the statue's bayonet back into shape.

Mr Spence said: "It's sad that it should come to this, especially in a big anniversary year – the centenary of the end of the First World War. I can't understand what would possess someone to do that.

"Even if it was someone who'd just had a bit too much to drink on a Saturday night and thought he was being clever, it's still no excuse."

Mr Davison, who lives in Bracken Bank, said: "Once we found out we went down and fixed the bayonet, because we couldn't leave it looking like that. It was hugely disrespectful to our fallen heroes."

Councillor John Kirby, chairman of the town council's allotments and landscapes committee, offered his thanks to Mr Spence and Mr Davison for going out to fix the bayonet so quickly.

He added town councillors would consider having CCTV installed to cover the square.

"It's a beautiful area for people to sit in, but some are still pinching plants from the flowerbeds," he said. "And the corner of the square where the weather station is has been used as a toilet which is unacceptable."

Cllr Barry Thorne, chairman of the council's finance and audit committee, who served in the Royal Navy, said: "My grandfather and father fought in the First and Second World Wars, and it's disgraceful that someone would do that damage to a war memorial.

"As a formal Royal Navy sailor I am sickened by this disrespect shown to men and women who fought to make us free.

"I'm sure somebody in the town knows who was responsible and I wish they'd go to the police."

Cllr Thorne said a lot of time and effort had been put into making the cenotaph and square a place for the town to be proud of, and this must not be spoiled.

"Steve Thorpe, who is paid by the town council, has made town hall square a beautiful haven and we've received hundreds of compliments about it," he added.