My name is Alison Glass and I am a Year 14 student at the Collegiate Grammar School, Enniskillen. When my History teacher first mentioned the My Adopted Soldier project, I knew it was exactly the programme for me. I loved the thought of bringing history into the modern era as well as meeting new friends from across the island of Ireland.
A number of girls in my class expressed interest and we each wrote a short essay on why we thought we should be chosen for the project and what talents we could bring to make it a huge success.
When my teacher came to me a few months later and said my application was successful, I was delighted to be representing County Fermanagh. The project thus far has been an excellent experience and I cannot wait to travel to France when the other participants!
Corporal Robert Kerr is the soldier I was given to research. I began by searching his name on the internet until I had exhausted all possible websites. Through this I was able to find the Kerr family on the 1911 Census as well as Grave Registration Documents.
I then got my hands on the 'Fermanagh War Memorial Book of Honour 1914-1921'. This fantastic book is an Inniskillings Museum Publication which gave me an excellent insight into the life of Corporal Kerr and his brother, Robert who also had a page in the book.
In the 'Fermanagh War Memorial Book' I was able to find out that Corporal Kerr's medals are stored in the Inniskillings museum in Enniskillen and that he had gone to Tempo Church of Ireland where there is a plaque commemorating him. This immediately grabbed my attention as I myself am I Church of Ireland parishioner. It seemed to me, the next natural step in my research was to contact the Inniskillings museum and arrange a visit to the church.
The museum was able to show me Corporal Kerr's medals: the 1914-1917 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. They also gave me some useful background information about the 11th Inniskillings, 36th Ulster Division.
I was invited into the church by a parishioner who happened to know a lot of the history surrounding the other members of the congregation in the church. The lady not only showed me the grave of Corporal Kerr's mother and father, but also was able to point me in the direction of a family member and to the farmhouse at Lettan where Corporal Kerr was raised. My visit to the church was really the spark which set off my research!
meeting the relative
It was a fantastic coincidence that Corporal Kerr's late nephew's wife is a member of the congregation of my church, St Macartin's Cathedral, Enniskillen. Therefore, I could get into contact with Mrs Hope Kerr with ease and gave her a call to see if she had any information about my soldier.
Hope kindly invited me to her house and when I arrived we talked about Corporal Kerr and she willingly told me all the information she knew.
Hope was able to show me Corporal Kerr's death penny and his bronze tin he received during Christmas,1914.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who helped me along the way with my research of Corporal Kerr, thus making it an extremely rewarding experience.
At 5.30am on the 26th June 2015, it was time to leave my small village in County Fermanagh and head up the motorway to Phoenix Park, Dublin. The group met at Ratra House where we prepared to make the exciting trip to Áras an Uachtaráin in order to meet President Higgins.
A quick 'selfie' on the bus to Áras an Uachtaráin
After meeting the President, we headed straight to the airport and flew to Brussels, Belgium. Once we hit the ground again, we had a long bus journey to Albert, France where we had a rather interesting meal which was shortly followed by some much needed rest at the Ibis Hotel.
After an early start, we got back on the bus and travelled to the Lochnagar Crater, the largest crater from the war at almost 300ft (91m) in diameter and 70ft (21m) deep.
After the crater, we began to fulfill our research by beginning to visit the graves of our adopted soldiers.
As we visited our soldiers, we stopped off at a German graveyard. I found this a particularly emotional experience as it was shocking how poorly these graves were maintained in comparison to the Allied graves.
Later, we visited the Ulster tower and had a guided tour of some remaining trenches. Nathan, Kyle and Emily got the chance to dress up as a WW1 soldier, a modern day soldier and a WW1 nurse respectively.
After the tour, it was time for me to visit Corporal Robert Kerr's grave. I made my way up to Mill Road Cemetary with the RTE crew, excited yet slightly nervous.
I placed an Inniskillings poppy cross and some Fermanagh soil on Corporal Kerr's grave.
The students then held a poignant memorial ceremony at Theipval where we remembered all of the soldiers from our counties who fought in the Great War, including those who are without a grave.