ANZAC graves desecrated
The defaced war graves in Harefield churchyard in HillingdonCllr Jane Palmer

A number of Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) war graves have been defaced with blue spray paint in a north London cemetery. The graves, at Harefield churchyard in Hillingdon, are dedicated to Australians who died in conflicts in Europe during World War One, and were found defaced this morning (22 November).

The churchyard contains around 120 World War One graves, mostly those of Australians who passed away in the Australian Auxiliary Hospital (AAH), which was based at nearby Harefield Park. The cemetery also contains six World War Two graves, and many of the headstones are uniquely scroll shaped.

In 1914, the Australian owners of the now Grade II-listed Harefield Park House, offered their home and its grounds for the treatment of injured Australians and New Zealanders. The 1st AAH opened in June 1915 and closed its doors in December 1918, it contained over 1,000 beds for casualties from France.

Local councillor, Jane Palmer, said she found the graves defaced on Sunday morning and said she had been "in tears" at the damage caused by vandals. "I went down to look and give some support to the Church and the village and having seen it myself, it moved me to tears. It was devastating," she told GetwestLondon.

"The ANZAC graves are a very very big part of Harefield village. It's something they've been brought up with and they've been brought up to respect and when they're desecrated like that people take it very, very seriously.

"The community will come together as a result of it and they're very angry at what's been done. People were coming down to look at it whilst I was there and were obviously, visibly moved by it."

In April this year the Harefield vandals sawed an Australian flagpole and sprayed blue paint on a memorial ahead of the Gallipoli centenary. Neighbourhood Inspector for Hillingdon North Rob Bryan said on Twitter: "Those who did this should give themselves up. This is not going away."

Cllr Palmer, a Conservative for Hillingdon, added that she has informed police and will bring the matter to the attention of Hillingdon Council. She continued: "The community can be assured that myself and my [fellow ward Councillors] will be doing all we can to make sure this doesn't happen again."

Anyone with information should call police on 101 quoting reference number 0923805/15.