GARTH Wright has become the first person to take Argyle up on our offer of free Memberships to Home Park for second world war veterans.
Mr Wright received his membership card and pack from Argyle Chief Executive Martyn Starnes when he visited the Home Park Ticket Office on Tuesday morning.
The club announced earlier this year that all veterans of the second world war would be admitted to Home Park for free, from now on. That was not the incentive for Garth to sign up – he is a long-term committed supporter – but the club were delighted to be able to recognise his distinguished service.
Arriving bedecked with service medals, Garth said: “I came in for my ticket and I heard we were going to have a ticket, buck shee, and the girl quite rightly wanted to see some evidence.
“That’s why I’ve got my mufti on. I’m pretty scruffy really!”
On the contrary, sir. It was a treat to see the sprightly Garth – 97 later this month – with his richly deserved medals.
His is an astonishing story. Originally from Horndon, near Tavistock, Garth was a in the 153 battery of the 51st regiment of the Royal Artillery Territorials, who were then sent to north-east France upon the outbreak of war.
After the German blitzkrieg of Spring 1940, British forces were forced to withdraw, via the extraordinary operation on the beaches of Dunkirk. Garth was there, helping to cover his comrades, as well as volunteering as a stretcher-bearer to assist the injured.
From there, Garth spent the whole war fighting on various fronts, until its merciful conclusion in 1945.
“I was on anti-aircraft, Bofors guns,” he said, of Dunkirk. “We gave what cover we could to the withdrawal. Then we spiked our guns and took a chance.
“I was lucky. We came home first class, to Dover, and joined the armoured division. We went across then to North Africa. We were seasoned troops. If you have one little skirmish, you were off to the next one.
“We got hammered up at Tunis. Four of my dearest friends were killed. Then we stood back until the front got over to Italy, and fought at Monte Cassino. After Cassino, we went north – we were on mortars by that time – and I was demobbed by Milan.
“By the time I came back to Blighty I was a civvy.”
Post-war, working as a driver for Plymouth Corporation, Garth found it difficult to get to Home Park, but after retiring, he made sure that he devoted some time to the Greens.
“I couldn’t get to the matches before, but used to follow it,” he said. “When I retired, Peter Shilton was manager. When he came in, I thought ‘I’ve got to go in and see this now.’
“That’s when I started to take a regular ticket. I’ve not missed many games since. I bring my granddaughter, Lucinda, and we have a great time. We go down the fanfest – always go down there first.”
Garth may be familiar to you – and you may not even realise it. If you ever hear the piercing sound of a lone bugler ringing out from the Grandstand during matches, that’s Garth.
It was a pleasure to present him with his Membership pack for 2016-17, as a token of recognition for everything that he and the other men and women that served this country so gallantly did.
Garth, a modest gentleman, may baulk at that suggestion – but he just may not want to blow his own trumpet.