War memorials which are being ransacked by metal thieves are to be given invisible security markings in an effort to deter metal thieves from plundering them, it was revealed today.
The War Memorials Trust estimates that at least one wartime monument is being targeted every week because of the rising price of scrap bronze and copper. It is planning to forensically mark the metal plaques of all memorials around the UK with SmartWater – an invisible liquid.
The solution can only be seen under UV light.
It means that any metal recovered before it is melted down can be identified and returned to its rightful owner.
The trust is calling on volunteers to help identify, record and protect as many monuments as possible to commemorate the upcoming centenary of the First World War in 2014.
War Memorials Trust director Frances Moreton said the thefts caused a great deal of anguish to communities.
The memorial at Barr Beacon is one of the worst hit in the West Midlands, with thieves repeatedly stripping its copper dome at a cost of thousands of pounds.
Deputy Walsall Council leader Adrian Andrew said: "To target a war memorial that stands as a reminder of the sacrifices made by men from Staffordshire and Warwickshire in the First World War is despicable.
"The metal taken is worth virtually nothing to the thieves, but we cannot afford to keep going down this route "
The Telford-based makers of SmartWater, which is used by a number of police forces to trace stolen items, are creating a national database of the UK's memorials and donating bottles of its solution as part of the In Memoriam 2014 scheme.
Sir Keith Povey, chairman of the SmartWater Foundation, said: "I hope that the community will embrace the project by taking an interest in locating and preserving these symbols of our commemoration."
Metal theft is currently estimated to be costing the UK economy in excess of £700million a year.
Anyone wishing to register a war memorial can visit www.inmemoriam2014.org for more information.