I wish to use this column to make a plea to all your readers for their help. Little over a week ago, thieves entered the site of the old High Royds Hospital and stole the memorial plaque erected to honour those members of staff who gave their lives in the service of their country in two world wars.

The site has suffered five years of thefts and vandalism since it ceased to function as a hospital but this latest act goes far beyond criminality and borders on the sacrilegious. My initial reaction to this wanton act of vandalism/theft was one of disgust tinged with anger that those men who gave their lives to make a better world could have their memory treated in this way, by those they made a better world for.

Now I feel I need to do something about it. My plea is to anyone with any knowledge of the whereabouts of this plaque to contact me and I will undertake its safekeeping until the time is right to replace it in its preferred site. Scrap metal dealers, antique shops, car boot buyers all and everyone please lend a hand in the return of this piece of our local and national history. I will guarantee anonymity to anyone even to those responsible for the theft if they contact me on 01943 608572.

Messrs A W Ackroyd, A L Appleby, J Currie, L Holmes, W Marshall, J T Mitchell, M Nangle, W Powell, R Raistrick, E Smith and H Towell who died in the 1914-1918 war and L W Dale, H Mounsey and W Murrell who gave their lives in the 1939-1945 conflict deserve to have their names remembered. Incidentally, they were all local men with families still in the area. Photographer Mark Davies who feels as strongly as me on this issue says on his website ‘lest we forget – it seems we have.’ Let’s prove him wrong and give the men their memorial.

Tom Booth
Chantry Close, Ilkley

Dedicated enthusiasts

I was interested to read the article by Annette McIntyre about the Ilkley Literature Festival (Wharfedale Observer, September 25) especially as it recounted some of the details about how it was started 35 years ago. It was flattering to learn that I am now remembered as its sole begetter, but I feel – as a matter of historical accuracy – that the record needs to be put straight.

The idea for such an event came about as a result of discussions I had with Peter Harland who was then editor of the Telegraph and Argus, who also lived in Ilkley. I had attended previous literature festivals in Cheltenham and elsewhere so Peter (who also chaired the Yorkshire Arts Literature Panel, membership of which included the novelists Stan Barstow, Malcolm Bradbury and Glyn Hughes, who was also a poet) said: “Why don’t you try starting something similar here? Submit a plan that we can discuss at our next panel meeting.” The postal strike provided an unexpected window of opportunity for me to formulate firm proposals and a realistic budget that, subsequently, the panel warmly approved. A Yorkshire Arts grant was promised provided the urban district council was willing to supply similar funds.

In approaching the Town Hall for the necessary support, I quickly found an enthusiastic ally in Gerald Hodges who was then borough treasurer (and was later to become director of finance of Bradford City Council) who not only pulled the necessary strings to obtain the authority’s backing but volunteered his services as the festival’s treasurer – an honorary position he enthusiastically maintained, with meticulous attention to detail, for several years.

Another inaugural benefactor who provided essential support during the festival’s early years was Dr Robin Alston who combined lecturing in the English department of Leeds University with proprietorship of a local publishing venture, the Scholar Mansel Press. Through his keen involvement, we were able to publish a number of commemorative facsimiles that have since become rare collectors’ items.

Incidentally, your article listed the American poet Chester Kallman as one of those included in the first festival. Alas, he didn’t turn up – much to a British poet’s dismay! W H Auden stayed at the Craiglands (in rather a grumpy mood) for much of the week, hoping his former boyfriend would show. Despite this disappointment, he gave a splendid reading – though not his final appearance as you stated. I understand from biographies that he gave another public reading in Austria shortly before his death.

Finally, it needs to be said that nothing would have been possible without the dedicated help of a large number of local enthusiasts who devoted much time, enthusiasm and knowledge to the planning and presentation of an event such as the town had not experienced before. Other than the indispensable Paddy Rowe (who for several years provided loyal secretarial help and was our sole – very part-time – employee) the whole show was run by volunteers on a miniscule budget . . . yet we always managed to finish with a modest surplus. I’m glad that our efforts proved fruitful. As the event’s first (honorary!) director may I wish the current Festival – and those in future – continued outstanding success?

Michael Dawson
Ludford Mill, Ludlow, SY8 1PP

Appalled by PO closure

I am utterly appalled at the decision to close the White Cross Post Office in Guiseley. Appalled, but not surprised – as, despite a campaign to fight the closure, and the actions of numerous residents who have taken time to write to the National Consultation Team at Post Office and their local MP, as usual the decision is made regardless.

In the same week in which this closure is announced, the Government is taking the equivalent of £2,000 from every taxpayer to bail out the banks. And I dread to think how much money has already been spent on the war in Iraq. Yet it would appear that there is no money available to keep our vital community post office service!

The White Cross is not only a post office. It is a welcoming, friendly place in which people chat while queuing and often enjoy a laugh and banter with the postmistress and her husband. It brightens many days. This closure will only add to the general gloom which is sapping the heart out of our now sad and miserable country.

Kathryn Firth
Otley Road, Menston

Your views on crime

The Howard League for Penal Reform has set up an independent Commission to investigate the best way of dealing with people who commit crimes and how we can all work to make our communities safer. We want to hear from your readers.

The Commission on English Prisons Today is considering how to make justice a local affair. It is interested in hearing how local people can have control over how money is spent and how we can invest money to tackle the underlying causes of crime.

Its new consultation paper suggests that local control of prisons and community sentencing might be more effective than the current bureaucratic and central system. The Commission has put a questionnaire on its website and is calling for ideas and submissions. The website is www.prisoncommission.org.uk.

Frances Crook
Member, Commission on English Prisons Today Director, The Howard League for Penal Reform
1 Ardleigh Road, London N1 4HS

Animal victims of war

Throughout the history of human conflicts, animals have been victims of war. During World War I, dogs and pigeons were used to deliver messages between frontline trenches and further afield.

Horses, donkeys and even elephants have been routinely used as beasts of burden, while a shocking array of animals – from bears to deer – have been kept as pets in the midst of battle. Today, animals continue to be used in the battlefield to detect explosives, and thousands suffer and die each year in laboratories, infected with biological or chemical agents, or deliberately shot or otherwise damaged.

To commemorate all the animal victims, Animal Aid has issued a purple poppy, which can be worn alongside the traditional red one, as a reminder that both humans and animals have been – and continue to be – victims of war.

The purple poppies cost £1 each (including postage and packing) and are available from www.animalaid.org.uk or by calling 01732 364546. A free copy of Animal Aid’s colour booklet, Animals: the hidden victims of war, accompanies each order.

Kate Fowler-Reeves
Head of Campaigns, Animal Aid, The Old Chapel, Bradford Street, Tonbridge, Kent TN9 1AW

Concern over daytime lights

The European Commission has reintroduced plans to make daytime running lights (DLRs) on all vehicles compulsory from 2011.

This is something that concerns me and I believe an independent assessment of their benefits is vital before any formal proposals are introduced.

When compulsory DLRs were first mooted, my colleagues and I were inundated with letters from cyclists concerned that DLRs would make them more difficult to be seen. If all cars have lights on, there is a worry that drivers start looking out for lights rather than pedestrians or cyclists. We must also be certain that we are not causing extra carbon emissions with no great benefit.

The commission must prove independently that the benefits will outweigh the potential safety and environmental pitfalls.

I remain sceptical about the need for EU-wide action, when different parts of Europe receive considerably varying levels of natural light.

Timothy Kirkhope
MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber and Conservative transport spokesman in the European Parliament
Beechwood Farm, Main Street, Scotton, North Yorkshire