The mystery of what happened to a Huddersfield soldier who scrawled his name and address on a rock in a remote wood during World War Two has been solved.
He was called George Bamford Hirst who had worked as a stonemason and carved his name and address on a huge stone in a wood in the Czech Republic in 1943 which has recently been seen by local people who became eager to know more about George.
It turns out the stone had been spotted more than 30 years ago by a Cardiff couple who had then asked the Huddersfield Examiner for help tracing George’s history.
At that time George’s 73-year-old brother, Douglas Hirst, revealed to the paper that George was his younger brother who had been serving with the Halifax-based Duke of Wellington’s Regiment when he was captured in Belgium in 1940 shortly before Dunkirk fell.
George, who then lived on Carr Lane in Slaithwaite, said: “George was a POW until 1945 but he never said a lot about it although he did reveal that one of the most frightening moments was when he was liberated by Russian women.”
George was one of nine children and followed in his father’s footsteps to become a stonemason in the 1920s but quit the trade to become a lorry driver for Hanson Transport in the 1930s.
After the war he returned to Hanson’s, this time as a coach driver and often drove the Huddersfield Rugby League team. He left Hanson’s to become a private chauffeur.
He had two children, George and Mary, and a sister, Jennie, who was 80 in 1991 and lived on Scar Lane in Milnsbridge. Douglas was his only surviving brother.
According to Huddersfield Exposed – a website dedicated to Huddersfield’s history – George was still living at 242 Quarmby Road in the mid-1950s and died there on February 9, 1967. Bamford was his mother, Annie’s, maiden name.
The information was sought by Ned Lecic, a member of the Rebel Pipers pipes and drums band in the Czech Republic which plays at many memorial events so is keen to honour the memory of veterans of the Second World War.
When he made the appeal for information he said: “My associates from the band have discovered a rock near Broumov in Bohemia bearing an inscription that was evidently made by two British prisoners of war in 1943 when the area was occupied by the German Reich.”
The inscription on the rock reads G B Hirst, 242 Quarmby Road, Huddersfield, Yorkshire, England.
The terraced house is opposite the landmark Field Head pub in Quarmby. Ned did some research on George and discovered he had survived the war and returned home.
According to records in the National Archives George was born on May 26, 1907, so would have been in his mid-30s when he was a POW. He was a private in the army and held at the prisoner of war camp Stalag VIIIB in Lamsdorf which today is in Polish Silesia.
It’s thought George had married Agnes McNicholas in 1932.
Although Douglas reported in 1991 that George died in the late 1950s Ned believes, like Huddersfield Exposed, that George died in 1967 when he would only been around 60 and Agnes died in 1983 at the age of 76.
The Manchester soldier was Frank Shatliff who lived at 100 Cheetham Hill Road in the city.
According to the National Archives he was born on July 1, 1919, and served as a private with the Lancashire Fusiliers before he was captured and also taken to Stalag VIIIB in Lamsdorf.
In 1943 a group of prisoners from the camp were transferred to Stalag VIII-D in Cesky Tesin which would explain why George and Frank were in Czech territory although the rock is 170 miles from Cesky Tesin.
The Rebel Pipers (http://www.rebelpiper.cz/) were originally inspired by Chip Doehring, an American multi-instrumentalist who had come over to Europe with the US Army, married a Czech woman and settled in the country but didn’t want to play the pipes alone so advertised free bagpipe lessons. It just grew from there and the band has been playing since 2004, especially at WWII memorial services and Highland games or Celtic festivals.
The band is well-known in the country and will perform in an Andre Rieu concert at Prague’s O2 Arena on June 3.
- Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR (https://ah-pr.com/) specialising in press releases, blogging, website content and copywriting.