Thursday, 1 December 2016

Private Willie Westgarth, a silver tea set and a story from the Great War

Now I am fascinated at the way a story can come together from a mix of unrelated events.

And so it is with Private Willie Westgarth and his silver tea set which has come on to the market on EBay.

The set includes a tea pot, sugar bowl and milk jug and comes with the inscription SAPPER W WESTGARTH ROYAL ENGINEERS THE GREAT WAR 1914-1918

And it has caught the eye of my friend David Harrop who has an extensive collection of memorabilia from the conflict some of which is on permanent display in the Remembrance Lodge at Southern Cemetery.

David also drew on that collection to provide much of the material I used in the book on Manchester and the Great War due out next year.*

And so it was natural that he would decide to put a bid in which in turn made me curious about Private Willie Westgarth.

He was born in 1886 in the tiny village of Rookhope, in County Durham which is just 30 miles from where my father was born and grew up and just little further from Seaham Harbour where I spent part of the 1970s.

So that pretty much drew me in and the rest as they say was just research which took me from County Durham to the Western Front and a German POW camp.

Willie Westgarth was a mason like his father and the family lived in both Rookhope and the equally small village of Hunstanworth both of which depend for much of their prosperity in lead mining.

Mr Westgarth had married Sarah Ellis Whitfield on October 17 1914 and their son Lewis was born in the April of 1916.

He had enlisted in November 1915 and was captured in the March of 1918 during the last big German offencive.

The following year he was demobbed and I guess that sometime after that the silver tea pot service was made.

I am not sure when he died but there is a match with a W. Westgrath who died in County Durham in 1957.

And the final twist is that Rookhope is one of the Tnankful villages so named because all those that marched away in the Great War returned.

Location; County Durham and the Western Front

Pictures; Private Willie Westgarth's silver tea set courtesy of David Harrop

*Manchester Remebering 1914-18, 

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