Vandals damage city war veteran’s headstone

Bill Barfield
Bill Barfield
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Vandals have smashed a war veteran’s headstone just days before the nation pauses to pay tribute to its war dead on Remembrance Sunday.

Yobs scrawled graffiti over William Barfield’s marble memorial in Scarsdale Cemetery in Norton Lees, Sheffield, before knocking it to the ground and cracking it in two.

William, who died in his 70s in March 1989, enlisted to fight during World War Two as a 30-year-old reservist, and was captured as a Japanese prisoner of war in 1942.

Of the 550 men from his battalion captured, he was one of only five who came home alive.

His son Patrick discovered the destruction when he went to lay a cross on his father’s grave to mark the 93rd anniversary yesterday of the end of World War One - in which his uncle, Jack, was killed.

The furious 65-year-old said today: “I would kill them if I found out who did this - it is an insult to my father’s memory.”

Patrick, from Lowedges, added: “I go up to his grave every couple of weeks and always lay a cross there at this time of year. I was really upset when I saw they had scrawled graffiti over the back of the headstone, toppled it over and smashed it.

“When my father enlisted he was 30, married, and a father of two children, and knew what horrors war could bring due to his brother Jack being killed aged 20 in 1918.

“But like others did then, and are still doing now, he volunteered.

“When Singapore fell in February 1942 my father was ordered to surrender and, in his words, he was sold into slavery.”

Patrick said his father suffered hearing loss during his time as a POW after he was struck over his head with the butt of a gun.

“My father was a legend for his strength and willpower and he was a natural leader - many of his fellow prisoners were only 18 and did not possess such qualities and they died in their thousands.

“Out of the 550 men out of his battalion only five returned home.”

The vandals who destroyed William’s headstone also toppled over the headstone on his parents’ grave on a neighbouring plot.

Patrick said: “I am sure it was people out looking to cause mischief, but they need to know the upset they have caused.

“Young people who do this kind of vandalism do not realise what sacrifices people made for this country.”

But Patrick, a retired design engineer, said his faith in humanity has been restored - after the John Fairest firm of funeral directors on Abbey Lane offered to repair the headstone, free of charge.

Wayne Pickering, manager of the funeral home, said they were happy to help in recognition of the contribution William Barfield made to his country when he fought during World War Two.

Mr Pickering said: “When we heard about the damage caused we wanted to be involved in putting it right.

“It’s Remembrance Sunday tomorrow, and we wanted to do something positive to recognise the contribution Patrick’s father made.”