Local Characters






One of our most well known local heroes is, of course, Corporal J W Harper who was the only Yorkshireman to be awarded the Victoria Cross in World War II. He was born in Hatfield on 6 August 1916, the son of George Harper, himself a corporal in the Royal Garrison Artillery during the Great War, serving on the Somme, Types and Loos. He attended Hatfield Woodhouse school and met and married a local girl, Lily Marshall. He enlisted into the York and Lancaster Regiment in 1940 and lost his life on 29 September 1944, aged 29, whilst in action in Depot-de-Mendicite, France and is buried in the Leopoldsburg British War Cemetery in Belgium. He was, therefore, awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously. Corporal Harper’s actions were recorded in the London Gazette as follows:- “The success of the Battalion in driving the enemy from the wall and back across the dyke must be ascribed to the superb self sacrifice and inspiring gallantry of Corporal Harper. His magnificent courage, fearlessness and devotion to duty throughout the battle set an example to his men, rarely equalled. Such conduct in the face of direct close range enemy fire could have but one result but before he was killed, Corporal Harper, by his heroism, had ensured success for his Battalion in a most important action. The success of the attack on the Depot de Mendicite can be fairly attributed to the outstanding bravery of Corporal Harper.”

You can see a memorial to Corporal Harper in Hatfield Cemetery.