32 students representing each county of Ireland gathered in Collins Barracks, Dublin recently for the launch of My Adopted Soldier. This ambitious project will take students to the battlefields of Flanders where they will get a frontline experience of the horrors of the Great War. Each student has been given a soldier from their respective counties which they have already begun to research. On arrival to Belgium they will be taken to the grave sides of their “adopted” soldier and will place a handful of soil at each of the graves as a mark of respect for the sacrifices these young men made a century ago.
The idea of the project came from Donegal History teacher, Gerry Moore whose grand-uncle died in World War One. He has been joined by teachers from both sides of the border to make this unique history project a meaningful and lasting experience for the participants and for students in the future.
Some of the participants have started gathering stories of their adopted soldiers and presented their findings at the launch. Alison Glass has adopted Corporal Robert Kerr from Tempo, Co Fermanagh who died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, July 1916. She showed some photos and artefacts belonging to the soldier. These photos and artefacts will be added to the online digital archive myadoptedsoldier.ie so that future generations can learn of these forgotten soldiers.
The story of the Irish soldiers in WWI has been ignored for nearly a century
Speaking at the event, organiser Gerry Moore said:
“The story of the Irish soldiers in WWI has been ignored for nearly a century. It is only in the last 10 - 15 years these soldiers were acknowledge at any level. This chapter of our collective history will now be opened and explored by this generation in detail and will be online for students of the future to learn from at www.myadoptedsoldier.com This is a unique project that takes the past into the future through digital archiving.”
The project not only allows students to learn more about this period of Irish and World history but it also allows them to personalise it through the story of actual people they will get to know during their research. The project will also have a very 21st century lesson for the students, allowing them to create a website for their adopted soldier, teaching them basic web design, coding and multi-media digital archiving.
Students on the project have an exciting summer ahead. The 32 participants will visit the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins before traveling to Belgium to visit some of the battlefields of the Great War and will also visit the European Parliament before returning home.