HARD-EARNED cash collected by Poppy Appeal volunteers has been stolen by thieves from the Royal British Legion's Gloucester headquarters.
They broke in and ransacked the veterans' charity building in Commercial Road between 10.15pm on Wednesday and 8am yesterday.
More than £2,000 in coins collected during last week's Poppy Appeal were taken, along with 120 cheques and two laptops.
Access was gained through the loft and a ceiling was damaged.
Keith Taylor, 74, is chairman of the charity's Gloucester City branch and has been involved with remembrance services for 39 years.
He broke down when he realised the building had been burgled.
"This is despicable," he said. "I know times are hard, but this money was raised in the name of so many servicemen and women who have given their lives so these toerags can walk around free.
"I knew something was wrong straight away and knew we had been done.
"They got in through the roof space. They've done quite a bit of damage.
"So much sacrifice has been made and this is how they have been repaid. One of our guys spent all week on The Cross collecting cash and now that is all gone."
An escape route was made through a rear door that was kicked off its hinges.
A footprint has been left at the scene and is currently being investigated by police, along with CCTV footage.
PC Matt Williams said: "Any break-in is reprehensible but, given the fact the victim is a charity and the appeal one that so many people have in their thoughts at this time of year, it is very sad indeed."
A fire extinguisher had been let off by the raiders and drawers and cupboards turned out in the hunt for valuables.
Bill Bratty, chairman of the Hardwicke and District branch of the Royal British Legion is disgusted by the act.
"This is horrendous, completely shameful and inexcusable," he said. "I don't care how desperate people are.
"To lose that amount of money is heartbreaking for them and it makes me so angry. These people are the lowest of the low."
Anyone who can assist police should call 101 quoting incident 77 of November 15.
Alternatively information can also be given anonymously on 0800 555 111, or via www.crimestoppers-uk.org.
In some cases Crimestoppers offer rewards of up to £1,000 where information leads to a conviction.