Dozens of Bermondsey and Rotherhithe residents gathered for two minutes’ silence at the West Lane war memorial on Wednesday evening, after the shocking vandalism incident earlier this week.
Local people laid wreaths at the war memorial and vowed “not to let them win,” referring to the person or people who set fire to the memorial in the early hours of Tuesday morning. The event was organised by Jill Merrett, who runs the local poppy appeal, and her deputies Geraldine Howard and Ken Higgins.
Pearly King and Queen of Bermondsey Jimmy Jukes and Michelle Thorpe also took part, as well as former local MP Sir Simon Hughes.
The West Lane monument, which commemorates the sacrifice of local people in both world wars, was unveiled in 1921 and is Grade II-listed. It was cleaned the same day by council workers.
The attempted burning of the near-100-year-old memorial is being treated as “suspicious” by police. This is thought to be the first time the monument has ever been seriously vandalised. Police said they are open-minded about the motivation for the crime and that there is nothing at this stage to indicate any element of racial or cultural motivation.
Current MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark Neil Coyle said earlier this week that he had seen CCTV footage of the incident, although the suspect’s face is not visible. He is in no doubt that it was a premeditated attack.
He appealed for any residents in the area to check their own doorbell cameras and any drivers in the area at the time the memorial was targeted to look at their dashcam footage.
Coyle said the council had already done a good job of cleaning up the damaged monument. “The vast and overwhelming majority of local people living here condemn this attacker and recognise the heroism and commitment that the monument marks,” he said. “We are proud of our armed forces’ contribution in every conflict.”
Cllr Darren Merrill, the council’s cabinet member for Safer, Cleaner Borough, said: ‘’This is a mindless criminal act that we will not tolerate, We have reported this to the police and offered our help in the investigation. I wish to thank our staff who acted so promptly to clean the memorial and the public for their help.’
A spokesperson for the police said: “On Tuesday, 24 August, police were notified by the London Fire Brigade of a fire they had extinguished at a memorial on West Lane, Bermondsey.
“At this stage, the fire is being treated as suspicious and enquiries remain ongoing. No arrests have been made.”