Clumsy street cleaners have smashed the base of a new £44,000 war memorial – as they tried to clear off snow.
The statue was erected in Peterborough, Cambs., last June after being moved from its original position hidden behind the city’s cathedral.
But residents now fear it has been damaged by over-zealous cleaners hacking at the snow with spades.
Big Issue seller John Chivers recalled how the cleaning crew arrived at the brand new monument on Wednesday afternoon.
He said: “They started clearing the snow off the monument, first of all with a broom, then they started at the ice beneath with metal shovels.
“I thought at the time ‘that’s not a good idea’ but I figured they must know what they were doing.”
The next morning he noticed cracks in the memorial’s limestone base.
George Bennett, chair of the Royal British Legion Peterborough branch, campaigned for a new memorial for 12 years and said: “When I saw it, I could have cried.
“It’s definitely been done with something metal – it’s vandalism.”
He added: “It’s been my pet project for the last 12 years.
“It took two years for residents to raise the £45,000 it cost to put the memorial up.
“It’s only been up for six months and every once in a while I check in on it.
“I was walking by this morning when I discovered what had happened. I’m absolutely livid.”
But Enterprise Peterborough – who employed the city cleaners – have said their workers only used brushes to clear the snow.
A spokesman for the organisation said: “We first alerted the city council to the damage when we removed the wreaths and snow from the war memorial.
“We have assured the council the memorial was treated with due care and only brushes were used in the process.”
A council spokeswoman added: “Clearly it is disappointing to see any damage to the war memorial so soon after installation. We will now be investigating what has caused this.
“We can assure residents that we will return the war memorial to its former glory as quickly as possible.”
The monument design is based on the Armed Forces Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire and was funded almost entirely by public donations.
It was officially dedicated by Very Rev Charles Taylor at a ceremony on the 25 June 2012 and was unveiled by the Duke of Gloucester at another ceremony in August which included a flypast by two Spitfires.