Patrick Fowler (1874-1964) from Dublin fought in the First World War, at least in the opening stages, but spent the greater part of the war hidden in a wardrobe!
Fowler joined the British army long before the outbreak of hostilities. He enlisted in the 11th Hussars, also known as Prince Albert’s Own and, though never rising above the rank of trooper, had served twenty-one years when hostilities broke out.
The regiment was sent to fight in France and he took part in a cavalry charge at the Battle of Le Cateau, fought after the British retreat from Mons. During the battle he became separated from his unit and found himself behind the German lines. He hid out in the woods, realising he was now behind enemy lines and stayed there for five months.
In January of 1915, the somewhat dishevelled-looking Fowler was discovered by Louis Basquin, a local man who was looking for firewood. He took Fowler to the farmhouse of his mother-in-law, Madame Belmont-Gobert, where he was hidden in a cupboard measuring only five foot and twenty inches deep, which was to become his home until the area was recaptured in 1918.
A hole was bored in it to help Fowler breathe. Fowler had to spend up to five hours sitting in the cupboard with his knees tucked up. Only at night was he able to emerge with confidence. Fowler was not the only soldier at the farmhouse and sixteen Germans were also billeted there.
Luckily for Fowler, although they were often in the same room as him, they did not have a look into the wardrobe. It must have been a tense time for him as a single cough would have given the game away.
The French family had taken a huge risk by taking Fowler in. Others had paid with their lives for doing so.