Families of Carshalton's war dead backed a campaign to target scrap metal thieves, as temporary plaques were unveiled on a desecrated war memorial.

Fourteen brass plaques bearing the names of 243 fallen servicemen from World War One were ripped from Carshalton war memorial in the London borough of Sutton last month.

Sutton Council immediately pledged to replace the names and commissioned new tablets carved from Portland stone.

However these will not be ready until after Remembrance Sunday.

Instead, temporary plaques were attached to the memorial to allow people to pay their respects on Armistice Day and at a service on Remembrance Sunday.

Attending the simple unveiling ceremony were relatives of some of the servicemen remembered on the memorial and members of the Royal British Legion.

The thefts have prompted calls for a change in the laws regulating the scrap metal trade.

The council has said the scrap metal laws are outdated and has already raised the issue in the House of Lords.

Under the existing law, drawn up in 1964, dealers are only required to take the name and registration number of sellers, with no requirement to check identity or back details.

The council wants checks to become mandatory and a cashless payment system to be brought in which would allow sellers to be traced through their bank accounts.

Councillor Ruth Dombey, Sutton Council’s deputy leader, said: “The thefts appalled the whole community and we were determined they would not stop our war heroes from being honoured on Remembrance Sunday.

“The attack on this monument shows that the scrap metal laws are in urgent need of reform. We need to do away with the ‘cash in hand’ payments culture at scrap yards and bring in a properly regulated system to stop people getting away with these sickening crimes.”

Susan Wicks, 57, whose great uncle Samuel Currier is remembered on the memorial after he died during an assault on the German held village of Guillemont during the 1916 Battle of the Somme, said: “The law must be changed and tougher penalties brought in to stop these despicable people targeting war memorials.

"It’s difficult to know what is going through people’s minds when they commit these sickening crimes.”

The former primary school teacher, who grew up in Carshalton, added: “I’m glad that the council has been able to provide these temporary plaques because it would have been awful laying wreathes on a naked memorial on Remembrance Day.”

The War Memorials Trust estimates that at least one of the nation’s wartime monuments is being targeted every week due to the rising costs of scrap bronze and metal.