A FLAGPOLE displaying the American flag was ripped off a building in Lyme Regis on Saturday, as the USA marked Independence Day.
The flagpole was erected on Woodville, on the junction of Silver Street and Woodmead Road, in honour of American GIs who were based in the building before D-Day.
The Lyme Regis Society, which aims to preserve the architecture and history of the town, is responsible for the flagpole and recently erected the American flag to mark Independence Day on July 4 – a national holiday in America commemorating the Declaration of Independence of the United States in 1776.
The metal flagpole was completely ripped from the wall of the building on Saturday night, with one resident saying they heard a group of people singing the United States national anthem as it was pulled off.
A photo of a group of young people carrying what appeared to be the flag and flagpole further along Uplyme Road, near the medical centre, was posted on Facebook this morning but promptly deleted.
The exterior of Woodville has recently been refurbished and it is now left damaged with a square hole where the flagpole was removed.
In 1944, Woodville was home to ‘C’ company of the 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st United States Infantry Division.
‘C’ company, commanded by Captain Victor H Briggs, was part of the assault force led by Lieutenant General Omar Bradley on Omaha beach on D-Day on June 6 1944 in Normandy, France.
A commemorative plaque to the right of the front door has been erected in memory of the American Allies’ contribution to the D-Day push.
The Americans suffered 2,400 casualties at Omaha on June 6, but by the end of the day they had landed 34,000 troops whilst under heavy fire.
The American flag is flown on the building every year for Independence Day and the Royal British Legion also place poppy wreaths at the site every year for Remembrance.
Commenting on Saturday night’s incident, Peter Coe, chairman of the Lyme Regis Society, said “We are saddened to see a tribute to our American allies during the war damaged so needlessly. The American Flag is raised on the building at the top of Woodmead in recognition of the American soldiers that fought alongside British troops in the second world war.”
Major Ian Marshall, chairman of the Lyme Regis branch of the Royal British Legion, commented: “We were sadden to learn of the wilful desecration of the flag of the United States of America which was being flown as a mark of respect for our greatest ally’s celebration of their day of independence from the United Kingdom.
“It was perhaps more that this unfortunate display of mindlessness occurred at a time when, as a nation, we too are beginning to emerge from the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“We also recently laid a wreath to honour our American allies who were billeted in the town and surrounding area in preparation for the D-Day landings, and the fact that this year marked the 75th anniversary of the cessation of World War II and their significant role in achieving that outcome makes this incident even more regrettable.”
The incident sparked outrage on social media and the owner of the building later announced that one of culprits and his mother had come forward, returned the flag and flagpole, and had offered to pay for repairs and reinstatement.
The owner described the incident as “upsetting and frustrating” but said it was most likely a “drunken prank which went a little too far, rather than a premeditated attack on the memory of the brave men of ‘C’ Company”.