Etched into three brass war memorials were the names of men who had made the ultimate sacrifice for this country in the fight to defend freedom and overcome the rise of dictatorship. But the plaques honouring those who had fallen during two world wars were tossed into an oil-spattered iron bin, on top of a pile of mangled piping and frayed cables.

The memorials that should have been treated as priceless objects of British history — tributes from a nation indebted to those they commemorate — were instead considered mere junk and valued as scrap metal worth less than £30.

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