A World War One memorial bench has been defaced in a “despicable act of vandalism”.

White paint was sprayed on the bench by the historic Verdun Tree near St Albans Cathedral in the run up to Remembrance Sunday in November.

Graffiti spelling out the words ‘Lear fM’ has been daubed on the bench which depicts a group of ‘Tommies’ advancing over barbed wire towards enemy lines.

St Albans Council believes the graffiti could be a tag and appeared on the bench between January 19 and 20.

The council’s park contractor has cleaned off the graffiti, free of charge, and the bench has now been restored to its original condition.

St Albans & Harpenden Review:

The bench has been restored and graffiti removed

The Verdun tree, which the bench sits by, grew from a conker taken from the only tree left standing in the battlefield of Verdun, one of the bloodiest clashes of the First World War.

St Albans Mayor, Councillor Rosemary Farmer, who led the district’s Remembrance Sunday events, said: “This was a truly despicable act of vandalism that I am both upset and outraged by.

“The design of the bench is very striking, making it quite clear that it is a tribute to those who gave their lives for their country.

“I am furious – and I am sure the whole community will be as well – that someone could deface it in this way.

“If anyone can shed any light on who is responsible, then I would urge them to contact the police immediately. I would also like to thank our contractor for cleaning it off so quickly.”

Police are aware of the criminal damage and are appealing for witnesses.

St Albans Chief Inspector Lynda Coates said: “We are doing everything we can to trace those responsible for this crime, which has understandably caused great upset and offence within the local community.

“As part of our enquiries we are appealing to anyone who may have witnessed the incident, which happened over the weekend of January 19 and 20, or anyone who has any information that may assist our investigation.

“If you can help, please call 101 quoting crime reference 41/6652/19.”

The incident in St Albans follows a shocking trend of defacing war memorial this month after several were vandalised in central London.