A Lewisham war memorial which was set on fire this morning by vandals is being treated as an arson attack by police who donned rubber gloves, buckets and sponges to clean it.

Officers were called to the memorial on Lewisham Way, near to the junction of Upper Brockley Road after being flagged down by a member of the public at 3.47am.

The charred remains of burnt poppy wreaths could be seen at the site along with smoke damage to the base.

It comes less than one week before the anniversary of the declaration of war against Germany in 1914.

Superintendent Neil Evans of Lewisham police, said: "It is very rare a memorial is vandalised and is naturally an emotive subject.

"This Sunday sees the Eve of the outbreak of WW1 and it is particularly insensitive that someone should vandalise a war memorial which helps us remember the sacrifice that many men and women made from around the British Empire. Lewisham's diverse community reflects those nations that valiantly contributed and therefore the conflict of 1914-18 is a shared community experience.

"Let us all take a moment to reflect on that and the commemorations."

No arrests have been made but detectives are studying CCTV footage for information.