The official opening of a new entrance to Portsmouth’s D-Day Museum was postponed today after it was smashed by raiders
Shocked staff were forced to abandon the ceremony when they discovered the damage this morning. Thieves smashed glass at the front of the building before stealing a box containing about £100 in donations to the museum.
Cllr Lee Hunt, Portsmouth City Council Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure said: ‘We can’t quite believe we’re having to cancel this morning’s grand opening of the D-Day Museum, but a break-in and act of vandalism has forced us to postpone.
‘It’s horrendous to report but the spectacular, brand new frontage has been smashed, and Poppy Appeal donation money stolen. It looks as though something like a breeze block has been thrown at the window to gain access and money from donations stolen.
‘This is really upsetting for everyone involved getting the museum ready in time for half-term and for Remembrance Day.
‘We’re saddened to disappoint our Veterans and visitors who were due to attend today. But, this will not deter us, we’ll repair the damage, we’ll do everything we can to catch those responsible, and we will have our fantastic opening as soon as possible.
‘Police are currently on site and the museum itself will be open from 10.30am today.’
The new entrance has kick-started the multi-million pound regeneration of Portsmouth’s D-Day Museum.
Visitors to the seafront attraction will now be greeted by a huge picture of British troops in June 1944 about to board the landing craft that would carry them to Normandy.
Taken from the archives of The News, the image was captured at South Parade Pier, in Southsea, just days after D-Day itself and has been enlarged to cover the front of the museum.
It has been paid for by Portsmouth City Council, which is aiming to bid for £4.4m from the Heritage Lottery Fund to carry out major work to the museum ahead of the 70th anniversary of D-Day in 2014.
The new entrance had been due to be officially opened today by the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, Cllr Frank Jonas in the presence of service veterans.
Andrew Whitmarsh, the museum’s development officer, said: ‘Everyone is really upset. I’m still trying to come to terms with it. This is a museum in memory of people who served in the Second World War and a public institution. The D-Day musuem is paid for by people who pay taxes to Portsmouth City Council so I can’t understand why people would do this.’
Police say they are following several leads to find suspects linked to the burglary.
A concrete block had been used to break a window before a box containing charity donations was stolen.
Two men were seen near the museum at the time.
The first is described as white, 5ft 6in to 5ft 7in tall, aged in his 20s, of skinny build and wearing dark clothing
The second is described as white, aged in his 20s, skinny and wearing dark clothing
A Hampshire Police spokesman said: ‘It’s believed the men left the scene in a small red hatchback car. We are making a range of enquiries to trace this vehicle.
‘Specialist officers are conducting a forensic examination of the scene for evidence.
‘Anyone with information about the identity of suspects or who saw a small red hatchback car near the scene is asked to contact police by phoning 101. Mini-com users can phone 18001 101. Information can be given anonymously by phoning the independent Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111.’