Relatives of Great War men sought for service in Poland

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GREAT WAR soldier Frank Bower was posted overseas just after his 19th birthday, probably never fired a shot and died before his 20th birthday as a Prisoner of War 1,200 miles from his home in Yorkshire.

The young private from Ravensthorpe, Dewsbury died in the Heilsberg Prisoner of War camp, now in Poland, more than likely from one of the diseases that often swept such camps.

A century on, Private Bower and 39 other British prisoners who died in the camp are being honoured with new headstones in a special memorial plot.

Six of the ‘Heilsberg 39’ were from Yorkshire and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is seeking relatives to attend a rededication ceremony on May 16. The 39 had previously been commemorated on a memorial 75 miles away at Malbork.

Research by the Western Front Association’s David Tattersfield helped uncover details of the six men.

They are Firth Garlick, of Dewsbury, a private in the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry; John Gray Gillyon, 34, of Beverley, a private in the Yorkshire Regiment; Edward William Kearns, 26, of Hull, a gunner in the Royal Field Artillery; Harry Pickersgill, of Scarborough, a private in the Yorkshire Regiment, and Walter Whysall, of Barnsley, a private in the Yorkshire Regiment.

Mr Tattersfield says it is likely the men died as a result of insufficient food, overwork or a disease such as flu. Food was scarce due to the Royal Navy blockade and prisoners were a low priority.

* The Heritage Lottery Fund has given groups in Craven, North Yorkshire £87,000 to mark 100 years since the war’s outbreak.