Anger over Doncaster Council gaffe that saw floral war memorial sprayed with pesticides

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The local authority has been slammed by a military charity, after a bumbling Doncaster Council worker accidentally doused weedkiller over a ‘trench line’ with millions of poppies planted especially for an event to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.

To honour the 1.5million men who lost their lives in the notorious battle in 1916, volunteers at the Victoria Cross Museum in Balby worked for over 100 hours to prepare the soil and plant around 20 million poppies that were expected to bloom in time for the 100th anniversary of the first day of the battle on July 1.

But after a Doncaster Council worker mistakenly sprayed herbicide across the length of the 400 metre-long memorial garden earlier this week, Chairman of the Victoria Cross Trust, Gary Stapleton, says he fears their plans for a fitting trench line tribute to the fallen may now be ruined.

He said: “It’s careless, it’s reckless what’s happened.

“We’ve been planning and working on this for months and months.

“We really wanted a memorial garden of poppies in time for the anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, and so this has been very, very disappointing for us.

“We also wanted them there for Armed Forces Day, which we’d spoken to the council about.

“A team leader has apologised to us for this, and they’ve mentioned compensation, but if all the poppies have been killed then it’s been ruined and there’s nothing they can really do to fix that.

“We don’t know if they’ve all been ruined, we’re probably going to have to wait for a week to 10 days to see if they’ve all been killed or not.”

Assistant Director of Environment, Gill Gillies, said: “We sincerely apologise to Mr. Stapleton and the team at the Victoria Cross Trust for the mistake which has potentially led to an area of poppy seeds being accidentally sprayed with herbicide.

“The herbicide was being used to treat an area adjacent to the VC Trust field, but unfortunately some may have carried over on to the field were the poppies are planted.

“It remains to be seen how many poppies were affected by this, but we have offered to compensate the VC Trust for any damage caused.

“While we know compensation won’t get back the time or effort of planting, we hope the gesture reflects the council’s regret over the situation.”

Based on Cedar Road, the Victoria Cross Museum draws heavily on World War One artefacts, as many Victoria Crosses were awarded during the conflict.

Last year it received the contents of a World War One museum in Ypres, which was closing and needed a new home for its collection.