AN information board explaining the unfolding history of Skipton’s Raikeswood WW1 Prisoner of War camp has been unveiled by the actor grandson of a German officer.

Actor, Wolf Kahler, presided over the ceremony at the top of Raikeswood Drive.

Kahler’s grandfather Fritz Sachsse was a naval captain who became the Senior Officer at Raikeswood prisoner of war camp 100 years ago.

Sachsse had been at the German naval base of Tsingtao (Qingdao in Chinese) when it was taken by the Japanese, supported by British forces, in November 1914.

He was taken to a prisoner of war camp in Fukuoka, Japan, from where he escaped and tried to make his way back to Germany with fellow escapee Herbert Straehler. Using a series of false names they made their way through Japan and Korea and into China aiming for Afghanistan. After travelling for three months and crossing the Gobi desert it became clear that they would not be able to continue with their planned route so they retraced their steps to Shanghai and then travelled separately by sea to America. Sachsse travelled across America by train, stopping off to visit relatives in Chicago. He met up with Herbert Straehler again and the pair of them managed to secure places on a Norwegian steamer heading for Bergen. The vessel was searched by the British just off the Orkney Islands and Sachsse and Straehler were found hiding in a laundry room. They were initially sent to the civilian internment camp at Knockaloe on the Isle of Man as they were using civilian identities.

Sachsse was eventually sent to Skipton in June 1918 and Straehler followed in the August.

In March 1919, Sachsse became the German Senior Officer at Raikeswood Camp. He proved a popular and effective leader. The prisoners were repatriated in October 1919.

Sachsse was also the co-editor of the book Kriegsgefangen in Skipton which provides a unique insight into the lives of German prisoners of war in British captivity in the First World War.

The project team only recently made contact with Sachsse’s grandson, who has lived in the UK since the 1970s. Many people will know Wolf from his starring roles in films such as the ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ where he played the Nazi Colonel Herman Dietrich.

A translation of the book co-edited by Sachsse, with an additional section containing some of the research into the camp and the men, is due to be published by Pen & Sword early next year.

The book has been translated by a team of translators, including staff and students at the University of Leeds and local volunteers. This project has been led by Anne Buckley who lives in Skipton and is a lecturer in German and Translation Studies at the University of Leeds.

She said: “Raikeswood camp is a significant part of Skipton’s history, but is rarely mentioned in histories of the town. Thanks to the information board, residents will be able to discover another aspect of the war in Skipton and to learn more about the camp.”

Raikeswood Camp was set up as a training base for the Bradford Pals in 1915 and was then used by a number of other regiments including the Black Watch. It later became a prisoner-of-war camp for captured German Officers from January 1918.

The information board has been funded by a grant from the First World War Network and money from the National Lottery Heritage Fund as part of the Craven and the First World War project, a collaboration between Craven District Council and the University of Leeds.

The Craven and the First World War Project Officer, Rob Freeman, added: “The installation of the information board alongside our new interactive project website will really bring the story behind the camp to life, and will help to make the camp’s story accessible to everyone.”

Unveiling the board, Mr Kahler said: “I can’t really believe it, it is too much to take in. It’s absolutely fantastic and it is so moving; To be re-confronted with ones grandfather - he becomes more and more real.”

The story of his grandfather’s journey had been passed down through the family. Mr Kahler added: “We only knew that he had been in Skipton. It was something that happened a long time ago.””

Wolf was about 14 when his grandfather died, and remembers flying kites with him as a child. He also recalls visits on a farm after his parents fled their home in the heavily bombed Baltic port of Kiel during the Second World War. His family went east, he said, and had to flee again before the Russians came.