July 22 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, March 20, 2014
A schoolboy on a field trip to the site of one of the most harrowing battles in the First World War discovered his great-great-uncle’s gravestone.
Jack Kennedy, 13, said he was overwhelmed when he saw the final resting place of Edward Thomas Toole at a cemetery for fallen British soldiers at the Battle of the Somme site.
Jack, a pupil at Holloway School, Hilldrop Road, Holloway, knew his uncle had died in the battle but had no idea where he had been buried.
He paid his respects by laying a poppy cross at the graveside of the lance corporal, who died in battle on September 15, 1916, aged 19.
L Cpl Toole was part of the 19th Battalion County of London, one of the so-called “pals battalions” made up of soldiers who grew up, joined up, trained, fought and sometimes died together.
Jack, who was visiting the site as part of his history studies, said: “It was quite incredible to see the grave there, finding someone who is related to you and has died fighting for their country.
“It made me very proud but at the same time quite sad as well. I was shocked, it made me feel very emotional.
“To think he was just 19 when he died which is only six years older than me.
“He must have been very scared in the trenches, even though he would have been with all his friends from back home.
He added: “It really made me realise what happened in the First World War.”
Holloway paid for the £6,000 trip with cash from the pupil premium – a government initiative to award schools £400 for each student eligible for free meals.
Headteacher Bob Hamlyn said: “So far we have taken our pupils across Europe and have plans for many more trips.
“It was a decision we took because we thought it was important all the children were able to engage with what they were being taught. Some pupils might not have been able to afford the trip, which we thought would put them at a disadvantage when it came to learning. We decided that would not be fair.”
Jack’s mother Lee Kennedy, 46, said: “We plan to go back there as a family to see the grave. We are trying to find out a bit more about his life but so far it has been quite hard.”
She added: “It is great what the school has done for the kids.
“Learning it in a book is all very well, but when you see yourself, for real, it is a whole different story.”