A MINDLESS act of vandalism to behead a statue paying tribute to the armed forces left members of a Royal Naval Association “absolutely devastated”.

The Silent Sailor placed on the edge of the recreation ground in Barrack Road, Christchurch, suffered the damage earlier this month.

The statute had been financed by the Royal Naval Association Christchurch branch and the group said it will fundraise for a new silhouette if the original cannot be repaired.

Christine Payne, public relations officer for Royal Naval Association Christchurch branch, said: “Someone told our chairman and he was utterly shocked and devastated.

“He was horrified to find the head of the sailor had been taken off and there was no sign of it.

“Staff from the council came to the area and did find the head in one piece. The team at Penton Motor Group have offered to try to repair it free of charge.”

Ms Payne added: “Our members are absolutely devastated because our funding is hard-earned. The money does not come easily.

“We put together £250 to have the sailor erected and we had quite a nice service to mark this. It is just so disrespectful when you think it was to commemorate people who gave their lives or have seen horrible sights in conflicts. It just leaves a feeling of horror and sorrow but we are not going to be beaten on this just yet.”

The statue is part of the Royal British Legion’s Silent Silhouettes campaign, which has proved popular with communities across Dorset.

However, as reported by the Daily Echo, several of them have been damaged.

In May, vandals decapitated a First World War Tommy statue in West Moors, in an act described as “abhorrent” by the parish council.

Andrew Cook, Christchurch branch of the Royal British Legion chairman, said: “These statues are placed all over towns in Dorset and they have been vandalised in other places.

“I was shocked and saddened to find one had been desecrated in Christchurch.”

Mr Cook served in the Army for 14 years and said the timing of the act was troubling.

“I just question what goes through people’s heads especially when you think last year marked 100 years since the end of the First World War and this year was 75 years since D-Day – it is a very poignant time," said Mr Cook.

“This is quite a staggering incident.”