A tattooist, who climbed on a Stoke-on-Trent war memorial to place a mask on the face of a solider has generated divisive views for his actions.

Ross Johnston said he came up with the idea on a walk to visit his mum who he has been checking on during lockdown. He says he intended to lift spirits and meant no disrespect.

Mr Johnston from Fenton insists he holds those who paid the ultimate price fighting for their country in the highest regard.

The 35-year-old said: "I walk past to go and check on my mum and I sawit and just thought it would be fun if that geezer had a mask on. I suppose it's sort of like, they protected us so we're protecting him. So I just went up there, climbed up and put a mask on him.

"I put a post on Facebook and it got loads of likes but two peoplecommented saying 'isn't that a war memorial?' implying disrespect.

"I have family who've served in the forces and I think they'd be almost guaranteed to find it funny. There's no disrespect intended."

Ross said he walked passed recently and saw that the memorial had gained a lot of attention as "loads" of people stopped to take photos.

So the reason why I did this was because I thought that they have died and served our country so we could be here today. It’s a sign of respect for our fallen soldiers so I put a mask on him to protect him and to remind people to stay safe, stay alert.

Ross Johnston
Mr Johnston from Fenton insists he holds those who paid the ultimate price fighting for their country in the highest regard. Credit: BPM Media

However, local Councillor Paul Shotton wasn't sure everybody would seeit as a lighthearted stunt.

He said: "I suppose that is one way of looking at it but if he's donethat in a lighthearted manner we've got to ask if there's any damagedone."

He went on to say that vandalism to the war memorial in Fenton happened not that long ago and this sort of behaviour could cause that to happen again.

A few years ago the soldier's arms and rifle were knocked off and this sort of behaviour could cause that to happen again. It cost a lot of money to get it fixed as it basically had to be resculpted. People get very emotive around war memorials and whilst it was done to lift spirits, I'm not sure everyone would see it in that way.

Councillor Paul Shotton