Of course, he hastens to add, that is scant solace for the relatives and comrades of the 55,573 men of Bomber Command who the memorial was designed to commemorate. “The main thing is the impact on veterans and their families,” Murray says. “The fact it has been damaged represents an attack on their loved ones.”
The timing could not be more tragic. In the same week the attack happened Fred Sutherland, one of the last two surviving Bomber Command airmen who took part in the Dambusters raid, died at the age of 95 leaving Squadron Leader Johnny Johnson, 97, as the last living crew member to have taken part in Operation Chastise in 1943. Johnson described the defacing of the memorial as a “disgrace” and “mindless vandalism”. “I hope they are caught soon, and suitably punished,” he added.
All week teams employed by the charity have been cleaning the memorial. Murray says he received offers from supporters to turn up with a scrubbing brush and bucket although due to the specialist nature of the work required he has been forced to decline. So far the clean-up has cost the charity £2,000 although this has been offset by donations totaling £1,600 so far from more than 700 people. “Some of the donations are pennies given by widows, school kids right through to pensioners saying I want to help,” he says. “The reaction has been extraordinary.”