A THIEF has stolen a willow sculpture of a soldier made to commemorate the First World War.

The theft has angered the community and left the Haslingden-based war veterans charity that created it disappointed.

David Joddrell, an ex-armourer from Bacup and member of Rossendale-based charity Veterans In Communities volunteered to construct the soldier and a half-scale model of a First World War tank at Healey Corner in Whitworth.

A grant from Rossendale Neighbourhood Forum paid for the materials, but the skills and hours of construction time were voluntarily donated by Mr Joddrell, 62.

He said: “It must have gone sometime on Wednesday night because people began posting comments on Facebook on the Thursday. We have had a lot of support from members on the Facebook group ‘Making Whitworth A Great Place to Live’.

“I’m not bothered that it has been stolen. I am bothered about the principal as this was created for everybody to enjoy as a community.

“When I was building the tank and the soldier many people stopped and complimented the work.

“Now everyone has lost out because someone has stolen it. It has not been vandalised or smashed up but deliberately uprooted, which makes me think it has now been planted in someone’s back garden. It took me three days to make the soldier because it was harder to make than the tank. I had to get the stance right, and the gun and his back pack.

“If any body knows where it is, please could they inform the police.”

Comments on the Facebook group brand the theft as ‘disgraceful’, and one person posted: “They fought for us to live free, what will the thief do for his or her country?”

Mr Joddrell was uncertain whether he would be replacing the soldier, but said he may be making something for the town’s Scarecrow Festival in June.

He added: “I find it very sad to think that the community has people in it that would do this.”

Manager of VIC Bob Elliott said: “I don’t believe this has been taken by children, they would have kicked or damaged it. This has been deliberately pulled up by the roots.

“We are very disappointed because David put a lot of hard work into creating this for the benefit of the people of Whitworth and as a poignant reminder of all those who gave their lives in the First World War.”

Anyone with information on the theft should call police on 101 and quote log number FJ1401872.