Bench erected in Horbury to celebrate 100th birthday of Arctic veteran John Hirst

A bench has been erected in Horbury Memorial Park to celebrate the 100th birthday of Arctic veteran John Hirst.

By Julie Marshall
Thursday, 28th October 2021, 11:03 am
Updated Thursday, 28th October 2021, 11:04 am
Arctic veteran John Hirst (seated) with, from left, Keith Lister and Ann Webster from Horbury Common Lands Trust; mayor of Wakefield Coun Tracey Austin; John Lockwood, president of Horbury branch of the Royal British Legion; Fr Christopher Johnson; Malcolm Patterson, chairman of Horbury branch of the Royal British Legion; Harry Wakefield, vice-president  of Horbury branch of the Royal British Legion.
Arctic veteran John Hirst (seated) with, from left, Keith Lister and Ann Webster from Horbury Common Lands Trust; mayor of Wakefield Coun Tracey Austin; John Lockwood, president of Horbury branch of the Royal British Legion; Fr Christopher Johnson; Malcolm Patterson, chairman of Horbury branch of the Royal British Legion; Harry Wakefield, vice-president of Horbury branch of the Royal British Legion.

Earlier this month, the bench was blessed by Fr Christopher Johnson at a service attended by members of the Royal British Legion who orchestrated the honour, the Horbury Common Lands Trust which provided the grant to buy it, Wakefield's mayor Coun Tracey Austin and members of Mr Hirst's family.

During the war Mr Hirst and other navy and merchant seamen, carried vital supplies through Nazi attacks to keep Russia’s war effort alive between August 1941 and May 1945, delivering more than four million tons of cargo.

In all, 85 merchant ships and 16 warships were lost. One of these was the merchant ship SS Empire Cowper with young signalman John Hirst on board for his first ever mission.

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The plaque on the bench in Horbury Memorial Garden in honour of John Hirst.

He was rescued and returned home 12 days later.

After he had recovered from his ordeal Mr Hirst went back to sea and served for six-and-a-half years on board eight different ships.

The Horbury Common Lands Trust was founded in 1653 to administer rents generated from the letting of the town's common land and trustees award several grants each year to organisations within Horbury.