Commemorative trees planted to honour Abergavenny’s fallen during the battle of the Somme have been stolen, a dismayed volunteer has said.

Friends of Castle Meadows planned to mark the 100-year anniversary by planting a tree for each year. The one-hundredth sapling was meant to be planted during the national remembrance day ceremonies as a final mark of respect.

The heartfelt gesture was meant to honour the Abergavenny men who perished among the hundreds of thousands in one of history’s bloodiest battles.

A volunteer for the group, who preferred not to be named, said they gave their free time to plant 99 tree saplings at the copse in Castle Meadows thanks to a donation from the Woodland Trust.

“We planted the saplings in the Copse just below the Castle. Each one had a cane for support, and a tree guard to protect it. Within two weeks, many of the trees had been pulled out and thrown around the copse,” she said.

“Castle Meadows is a wonderful space for the whole community to enjoy. The volunteers, along with Monmouthshire County Council and Town Council, work hard to maintain and enhance this space.

“Last autumn we planted many spring flowering bulbs, which were also stolen along with some native plants. Some of these had an emotional significance, just like the saplings, as they represented a tribute to a family member.

“A crab apple tree planted in the copse as a memorial to Laurie Jones, who did so much hard work for the community of Abergavenny, was dug up end stolen this year.

“The one we could find were taken away and grown in pots in a volunteer’s garden. We replanted these at the copse on November 3. Within ten days all of them had been stolen.

“We are now unable to commemorate the battle as we intended. This is particularly sad for the chairman of the group as her father spent his childhood in Maes y Gwartha, had his ashes scattered on the Sugar Loaf, and fought at the Somme.

“If you are walking in the area, help us deter these thefts. Anyone working in the Meadows will have identification.

“Whoever is stealing these trees must stop,” she said.

It was suggested that whoever stole the trees had some knowledge, as the saplings were carefully removed and the site covered carefully with soil.

Black Poplars are considered an endangered family of tree in the UK — anyone wishing to plant one must gain permission and prove qualification.

Councillor Douglas Edwards was meant to plant the one-hundredth sapling to mark the Somme centenary.

“The trees donated this year were very special and dedicated to remember and pay tribute to all those who took part in the Battle of the Somme,” he said.

“One only has to look at the Memorials in the entrance of the Market Hall to appreciate the contribution Abergavenny and District made in the Great War.

“The Friends of Castle Meadows have played such an important part in volunteering over the past seven years in improving the landscape.

“They have welcomed parties of school children and introduced them to the plant, animal and pond life.  They have attracted adults as well as volunteers and the work in the copse has been till now an outstanding success. 

“I am unable to understand the vandalising and theft of trees in this area.  I trust those who destroyed and stole many of the trees will feel ashamed of their actions and attempt to make suitable retribution,” said the councillor.

Local PCSO Amanda Yung asked the community to stay vigilant if in the area where the vandalism and thefts occurred.

“We are asking that members of the public, particularly dog walkers, to  support the Friends of Castle Meadows by asking anyone they see in the area, why they are working there.

“Note a description and report the details to us on 101 or 999 if you believe a theft is taking place. We have ‘eyes and ears’ scheme,” she said.

Anyone with any information is asked to contact PCSO Amanda Yung at Abergavenny Police Station, or you can email [email protected].