VETERANS are furious after thieves stole union flags from flagpoles across Great Harwood ahead of Armistice Day services.

Flags in Town Gate, Memorial Park, Mercer Baths, the Showfield and by the canal at Rishton were removed on Saturday. Police are investigating.

Witnesses reported seeing a cherrypicker vehicle in the area.

Great Harwood councillor Gareth Molineux said the thefts took place between 11am and 6pm.

He said: “This year we made a decision to put up more flags and flagpoles because of Armistice Day, but also the Olympics and the Queen’s Jubilee.

“For the flagpoles in the park you need a key to access the rope, but the rope near the flags has been cut and the weights are either missing or damaged.

“It could have been mindless vandals but we have not ruled out anti-war campaigners.

“Fortunately we were able to get a flag up for the service by being creative with a bit of string ahead of the start and finish of the parade from Town Gate.”

Ian Wilkinson, chair of the Friends of Mercer Park, was outraged. He said: “It’s not just about the flags being removed, it’s the timing that is significant.

“We want to know the reason why this has happened.”

Len Myerscough, chairman of Great Harwood Royal British Legion, said: “I am disgusted. I don’t know who would do such a thing.

“To steal the flags ahead of Remembrance Sunday is heartless. These people have no respect for people’s feelings. They are disrespecting the sacrifice that these men and women made.”