Memorial to Battle of Britain pilot shot down in Westerham is stolen
A MEMORIAL to an air ace who was shot down in Westerham during the Battle of Britain has been damaged and a metal plaque stolen for scrap.
Thieves targeted the Squerryes Estate, hacking the commemorative sign marking where the pilot was killed.
It is believed the plaque would have been worth £20 in scrap on the black market.
The news comes a week after the nation was outraged by the theft of metal from a memorial to two boys killed by the IRA in Warrington.
The owner of Squerryes, John Warde, told the Chronicle that he has been saddened by the theft of the bronze plaque, a memorial erected where Polish pilot Stefan Wojtowicz, 21, died.
On September 11, 1940, one of the most crucial days of the Battle of Britain, Sgt Wojtowicz was attacked by nine Messerschmitts. In a furious dogfight, he shot down two of them before the others riddled his Hurricane with bullets, sending it plunging to the ground in flames.
The Squerryes family are upset by the theft. Mr Warde said: "We hid the memorial in the hedge so it was out of view to stop this sort of thing from happening.
"We put it there in 2010 and a group of us went to the spot for an informal gathering, a vicar read a prayer and members of the community came along.
"It was beautifully done and it was very moving. We did it on the 70th anniversary of his death.
"What has happened makes me very sad indeed. It's really rather a sick thing to do, we are horrified here at Squerryes.
"They probably only got about £20 for it and it probably cost a lot more to be made."
The commemorative plaque, measuring nine by six inches, paid tribute to the father-of-two and was put in place after historical researcher Nina Boyle contacted Squerryes to inform them of the pilot's death on their land.
Tim Saunders, the farmer foreman at Squerryes for the past 14 years, spotted the plaque was missing and alerted the Warde family.
He said: "I realised it had been stolen when I was out in the fields.
"It is wrong, it's just lowlifes who are not really part of society, and they are clearly very disrespectful to have stolen this plaque for metal value.
"That's what we assume they have done with it.
"They left the iron stand behind and just took the bronze plaque."
This theft is not an isolated incident and Inspector Dave Coleman from Kent Police said: "Metal theft is a serious crime and has a negative impact upon the public and our communities.
"We are issuing homeowners and businesses with simple crime prevention advice to prevent people from becoming victims of these insidious crimes."