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FACTDROP: Fury over Libya war graves desecration


Fury over Libya war graves desecration

Πηγή: This is Devon
March 5 2012

Forces veterans have spoken of their disgust at the desecration of a Commonwealth cemetery in Libya, where several Plymouth war heroes are buried.

British graves at the Benghazi War Cemetery were torn down and crucifixes smashed with hammers in an attack by an extremist mob.

More than 1,200 Commonwealth soldiers and airmen are buried in the eastern Libyan city, which was liberated from the clutches of tyrannical dictator Colonel Muhammar Gaddafi with British military help last year. Many of those laid to rest at the cemetery were members of the 7th Armoured Division, better known as the Desert Rats, which played a key role in fighting for control of Libya and Egypt between 1941 and 1943.

Among the graves are those of at least nine fallen heroes from Plymouth and the surrounding area.

The Libyan Government was last night described as “extremely apologetic” by British Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne.

Roger Garratt, a Plymouth-based Royal Navy veteran and Royal British Legion (RBL) leader, visited the cemetery himself when he served in Libya in the late 1970s. He said: “It’s just horrific. I am outraged. But this is the work of petty-minded, fanatic nutters, and not the Libyan people.” Basil Downing-Waite, chairman of the Federation of Plymouth and District Ex Services, said he too was “absolutely appalled”. He added: “It is unbelievable considering the lives that we lost out there, and after we put our own people’s lives at risk there so recently. I feel deeply for people who are relatives of those buried there.”

Soldiers laid to rest at the cemetery include city man Pte Norman McKee, who died in 1943 aged 24, and Cpt Eric Fracis (corr), of Lydford near Tavistock, who was killed aged 37 the following year, along with four members of the Bodmin-based Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry. The RAF graves of Flt Lt Leonard Murch, from Plymstock, part of an RAF photographic reconnaissance unit, and Sgt Victor Walkin, from Devonport, are also at the site. The pair both died in 1942, at the ages of 22 and 23, respectively. Flt Sgt Jack Blyth, from Torpoint, killed 69 years ago this Thursday aged just 23, is also buried at the cemetery.

Torpoint and District RBL branch chairman Steve Lewis said he was “disgusted” at images of the attack. The former Naval chief gunner also paid tribute to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which will restore the graves.

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