'It's never been there to praise war,' says lieutenant after Holy Roller vandalized

A passerby spotted blue, anti-war graffiti on the city's best-known military monument Saturday. For members of the 1st Hussars the monument represents loss, remembrance, as well as hope.

The military monument was defaced earlier this weekend

A passerby noted the anti-war graffiti on the city's best-known war monument Saturday morning. (Submitted by Grant MacDonald)

After being defaced with graffiti, London's Holy Roller is once again sporting it's iconic green colour in full. 

On Saturday morning, Grant MacDonald said he was on his regular walk when he spotted blue, anti-war graffiti that read 'F--k war' on the city's best-known military monument. 

"I was very upset," said MacDonald, whose grandfather served during the Second World War. "It's defacing all the veterans that have fought and have died for our country."

MacDonald took to social media to report what he had seen to the London Police Service. 

It was retweeted by Stuart Betts, the police service's deputy chief, with the comment "Very sad to see such desecration!"

The Sherman tank, which has stood on display at Victoria park since 1956, landed with London's 1st Hussars regiment at Juno Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944 and assisted in the Allies liberation of France, Belgium and Holland, taking part in 18 major battles.

Symbol of loss and remembrance

"The Holy Roller is a symbol of loss, it's a symbol of remembrance for the regiment, but it also represents hope for the future that there are people out there willing to step up and give up their lives to help make the world a better place," said Lt. Col. Allan Finney, commander of the 1st Hussars, a Primary Reserve Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment of the Canadian Army.

As a soldier, Finney said he fully believes there should be no more wars, however, defacing the monument was not the way to go about expressing those sentiments.

"It has never been there to glorify the war. It's never been there to praise war. That's not its purpose. It's there to remember that war is deadly and it's costly, not only to the soldiers, but it tears apart the lives of families back here in Canada as well."

"The monument itself is there to help us remember the cost, the pain, the suffering, but it also helps that we don't forget that it brought liberation to many people that were oppressed," he said, adding the freedoms Canadians enjoy today are thanks to soldiers and vehicles like the Holy Roller.

By Saturday afternoon, members of the 1st Hussars were covering up the graffiti. They had the exact colour paint in stock. (Submitted by James Ross)

Finney said within hours of being made aware of the vandalism, members of the 1st Hussars were on site and painted over the graffiti. 

A London police spokesperson told CBC News Sunday they had been made aware of the situation. 

Finney said this was not the first time the monument had been vandalized. 

"It has been happening pretty much ever since the Holy Roller has been there as a monument."

He said social media has become flooded with comments asking the regiment to move the tank back onto the base to better protect it. 

"We've actually thought about that, but in the end, it's meant to be something that people from around the community, around the city can easily go and see and contemplate."

Last year, the 1st Hussars launched a $250,000 fundraising campaign to restore the tank. 

They're hoping to have teams remove the Holy Roller from its pad after this year's D-Day ceremonies and take it to a workshop for a complete restoration, where it will be stripped down, sandblasted, geared up with new parts, repainted and then put back on the pad in Victoria time in time for D-Day ceremonies in 2022.

As of April, the campaign had raised more than $95,000. 

"We may be able to install one or two benches so people can just go sit down and reflect on the war, on the cost of war and, hopefully, be able to influence future generations to avoid war, if at all possible."


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