Sniper tore off badges when he was captured by the enemy

A sniper tore off his badges when he was captured during World War One to avoid execution and survived until the end of the conflict in a prisoner of war camp.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 2nd February 2015, 10:30 am
Pte Herbert Garthwaite from Lower Hopton, Mirfield, a sniper who survived WWI after being held captive.
Pte Herbert Garthwaite from Lower Hopton, Mirfield, a sniper who survived WWI after being held captive.

Herbert Garthwaite, from Lower Hopton, Mirfield, served in East Africa during the early days of World War One but was brought back to England when he fell ill.

He later returned to the European front where he was captured and held prisoner until the end of the war.

His son-in-law, Jack Mitchell, said: “Like a lot of people who experienced that type of war he never really talked about it again.

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“I should imagine with what they saw they tried to keep it out of their mind but I doubt that they could.

“The First World War really was lions being led by donkeys and it wasn’t much better in the second.”

Pte Garthwaite returned to Mirfield and attended a welcome home party at Lower Hopton Working Men’s Club, where he was a life-long member.

He worked as a wool warper and Mr Mitchell said he was the first military man to marry in uniform at the now-defunct Lower Hopton Church, which was in Calder Lane.

Mr Mitchell said Pte Garthwaite preferred to walk to his job in Kirkheaton over Lower Hopton’s hills rather than on Hopton Lane, but would carry a stick wrapped in thorns to fend off geese.

“If you’ve never been attacked by geese you’ve never lived!” he said.

Though Pte Garthwaite did not discuss his experiences in depth some key belongings were passed on to later generations of his family.

They include a Zwei Mark note from his captive days, a perfume sachet sent by Hopton children to soldiers on the frontline and an invitation to the welcome home dinner at Lower Hopton WMC.

Also remaining are his shaving kit, family photos and a poem from Hopton Chapel that gives a potted history of some of the congregation members who served.