SOLDIERS past and present gathered with volunteers and politicians to honour a Keighley soldier wrongly branded a deserter during the First World War.

The Men of Worth Project hosted a ceremony at Utley Cemetery to dedicate a new headstone at Gunner Gilbert Hardy Midgley’s grave.

Amateur historians from Men of Worth had researched Gunner Midgley’s story in order to have him officially classified as ‘war dead’ by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Gunner Midgley was classed as a deserter when he disappeared the day after arriving for training in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, 1916.

But in reality he had drowned in the nearby River Yare while taking an unfamiliar route back to his base from the local YMCA.

His cries for help as he fought the strong currents were heard by passers-by, but they could not find him in the river in the dark.

The brave young man, son of a Keighley alderman, did not make it to the frontline so he was never classed as an official member of the war dead.

The unveiling of the headstone was carried out by former regular soldier and current reservist Private Andy Spence, and the service was conducted by Men of Worth founder Andy Wade and the Rev Dr Jonathan Pritchard.

Andy said: “We had five former mayors of Keighley in attendance and a good number of councillors, which was perfect as Gilbert was the son of John William Midgley, a former mayor of Keighley.

“Wreaths were laid by Deputy Lieutenant David Pearson, the Keighley branch of the Royal British Legion, and the Men of Worth Project.”

“Some very nice comments were made in our guestbook at the reception afterwards in Keighley Rugby Union club house.

“People were very moved by our commemoration of a local man who died 103 years ago and who has finally received the recognition he deserves.

“He died in the service of his country.”