WW1: Larbert Prisoner of War

Private William Hunter from Larbert who died as a prisoner of war during the First World War
Private William Hunter from Larbert who died as a prisoner of war during the First World War

Larbert Old Parish Church’s war memorial enshrines the names of 123 men from the area who gave their lives for King and country.

Each one is a symbol of hope for a better world and freedom – two of the fundamental reasons local men signed up to be sent to the frontlines of Europe to face the enemy.

Larbert men Ronnie Cheape and Ronnie Laing researched each name on the memorial, even visiting their graves in Belgium and France and gathering details of the men’s lives and how they died.

Private William Hunter of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers (KOSB) was the only man listed on the memorial to die in captivity, taken as a prisoner of war after being wounded.

He was 31 when he died on May 28, 1917, in a German hospital. He is also remembered with honour on a Commonwealth War Graves Commission memorial at Niederzwehren Cemetery.

The first report of his disappearance was in The Falkirk Herald on June 9, 1917, when it was said his wife Mary, of Dawson Buildings, Stenhousemuir, was told her husband had been posted missing on May 3. Before the war Pte Hunter worked in the boiler shop at Carron Company and his brother George was also in the KOSB. He had been at the front in France since 1914, and was wounded in December of the previous year.

William Hunter passed away in a hospital in Sugolstadt. He had been at the front since January 1917.

Retired construction managing director Ronnie Cheape said: “Perhaps the most uniquely distressing aspect of the Great War was the number of British and Commonwealth servicemen who died but have no known grave.”

Many families lost more than one loved one in the Great War

The Scott family from West Carron lost three sons – Walter, James and John; the Anderson family from Muirhall Road – William and John, who died within two months of each other; the Grant family from Main Street – Francis and John; the Philip family from West Carron – sons Henry and William, both killed in 1916; the Sherriff family of Carronvale House – Alexander and John