Little is known about British Tommies who guarded the German officers at Raikeswood Camp. Historian Alan Roberts aimed to find out.....

Army life was not for everyone.

There were some who just did not seem to fit in.

Detailed information is available about some of the officers held at Skipton, but what about the rank and file?

These guards were largely drawn from the Royal Defence Corps which was not a First World War version of the Home Guard or ‘Dad’s Army’, but part of the British Army made up of those who were too old or who were medically unfit for service abroad.

It is known that most of them were decent enough men, but there were a few who graced the pages of the Craven Herald with their unhappy stories.

George Edward Gyngell appeared before magistrates in Skipton in mid-February 1918.

He had been absent from the Royal Defence Corps since the start of the month, but had not been idle.

He had no fewer than 12 charges against him for obtaining money and goods under false pretences.

He was convicted of three of these offences the following week and sentenced to six months’ hard labour.

Gyngell had become acquainted with a widow named Ethel Cooper and told her his wife had been killed in an air raid.

Gyngell had proposed to Cooper, and showed her a bank paying-in slip made out for a sum of over £2,500 which she mistook for a cheque.

He also told her that the money had come to him from the United States.

Following Gyngell’s instructions Cooper was able to obtain clothing worth £10 6s. 6d. from Rothwell and Co.’s shop in Barnoldswick.

Superintendent Vaughan of the Skipton police told the court that Gyngell already had a wife and four children who lived in York.

Gyngell had also tried to obtain a considerable amount of money from the Bank of Liverpool in Barnoldswick, which had brought his activities to the notice of the police.

He had also obtained between £10 and £11 from Frank Hodgkinson, a weaver, promising that Gyngell would make him the manager of a public house.

The chairman of the magistrates commented that Gyngell had preyed on people’s gullibility.

Private Gyngell had served in the Boer War in South Africa and had previously been a member of the Army Ordnance Corps.

He was a plumber by trade, but had also described himself as a house painter, journeyman and grainer.

He rejoined the army in 1915, but despite his previous service had difficulty conforming to military discipline.

He was convicted of four offences of being absent without leave, and three further offences including taking coal from a shed and wearing a ribbon to which he was not entitled.

A native of Bethnal Green in East London, he had moved to Hertfordshire. When his unit had moved to York his wife and children had followed him.

He was recorded as being present in Skipton in early December 1917.

The first German prisoners would arrive in mid-January.

Within three weeks Private Gyngell had absented himself from the camp and was trying to weave his web of deception.

Sadly he had already lost one child Marjorie to bronchopneumonia, and would lose another child Elsie (aged six months) to the same illness some five months after his court appearance.

Following his demobilisation from the Army, Gyngell had become unemployed for a long period of time, not helped by the loss of his discharge papers.

In spring 1925 he was engaged in correspondence trying to prove that he had actually served in the Army.

He died later that year aged 47 years old.

The information about Gyngell was taken from the pages of the Craven Herald and from files held in the National Archives.

Many documents held by the British War Office including the lists of German prisoners of war were destroyed in a bombing raid on London during the Blitz.

The surviving service records of British NCOs and men are widely known as the ‘Burnt Documents’.

The records of only about one-in-three British servicemen survived. Unfortunately the records for both the author’s grandfathers were lost in the same fire.

Meanwhile at Thorlby House at Stirton on the other side of the A59 and probably in full view of the German prisoners, the owners were alleged to have a store of over 73 pounds of tea for a combined household of 14 people.

It was argued by the prosecution that this was an excessive amount and equivalent to four months’ supply of tea.

The defence argued that the owners had simply continued to buy tea in large chests as was their normal practice.

The case continued.

The postcard shows some fine views of Barnoldswick. St James’s Church closed in 1960 and a small supermarket was built on the site.

The new Holy Trinity Church was built nearby on Skipton Road.