Search

First World War centenary: Schoolgirl, 14, discovers relative’s name on memorial during battlefields trip

PUBLISHED: 09:52 14 March 2014 | UPDATED: 09:52 14 March 2014

Drapers' Academy student Sian Moynihan

Drapers' Academy student Sian Moynihan

Archant

There may now be no living links to the war, but the memory of an ancestor can be enough to feel a connection to their suffering, as one 14-year-old from Gidea Park has found.

Students visited the trenches Students visited the trenches

Sian Moynihan saw her last name on the Thiepval Memorial, France, by chance and has since discovered that a relative is commemorated there.

She said: “I was a little bit shocked. As far as we [the family] knew, we didn’t have anybody in the war.

“But it was nice to find out that we did in that sense.”

Sian, who was visiting the battlefields last month with her school Drapers’ Academy, made the startling discovery after looking through the memorial’s books, where you search for a relative and then find out where their name is placed.

Graves of soldiers who died in the First World War Graves of soldiers who died in the First World War

Alexander Moynihan was a private from Ireland, who was killed in action on October 17, 1917, at the age of just 25.

It is not known how he is related to Sian, but he originates from her father’s Irish side of the family.

Sian said: “I think he was sent over the frontline and then shot. That’s all we know at the moment.

“But my mum’s trying to find out a little bit more and I would like to know more about what he did and which battalion he was in.”

Sian's relative's name as seen on the Thiepval Memorial Sian's relative's name as seen on the Thiepval Memorial

Sian embarked on the three-day visit to France and Belgium with 27 of her fellow Year Nine students and two teachers.

Their first stop was to the trenches in Sanctuary Wood, Flanders, which were made to feel even more real by the ­relentless rain and mud.

Pupil Haroon Butt said: “I found the trenches fascinating, with their dark, small tunnels. It made me feel like I was a soldier.”

The group, who watched the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate, Ypres, on their first evening, spent their weekend visiting the Thiepval and Tyne Cot memorials.

This was the third year in a row that the school had sent ­pupils to the battlefields.

Demi Killington said: “It was a very interesting trip, where we saw first hand the tragic loss of millions of people. I would say it is the most ­extraordinary place I have ever visited.”

Trip organiser Lisa Little, a history teacher at the school, added: “I was very keen to make sure the trip went ahead this year with it being the 100th ­anniversary.

“It is the largest number of pupils we have taken to the battlefields and they all came away with a memorable experience.

“This visit is important for the pupils in terms of their curriculum and learning the syllabus, but it is also important for them to learn the history of the conflict and have the opportunity to see first-hand the devastation of war.”

For Sian, the visit is one that she will never forget. “It was a fantastic experience; I learnt so much over the three days and loved every minute of it,” she said. “You don’t realise how bad the trenches were until you are actually there.

“It makes me feel really proud to have seen my relative’s name on the memorial.”

Comments have been disabled on this article.

Latest Romford News Stories

Two men were shot and one stabbed at a private party in Romford in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Judges from the prestigious annual London in Bloom competition have paid a visit to Havering.

The borough’s most gifted young people were recognised for their hard work and talent with certificates and awards last week.

Yesterday, 15:00

A mum-of-two has launched an online campaign to promote the borough and its family-friendly activities.

Yesterday, 10:00

If you’re wondering what the weather has in store for us this weekend why not watch our three-minute Met Office update on whether we’re getting rain or sunshine?

Fri, 12:20

A charming musical about life, love – and tradition – in a Russian Jewish community wowed on its opening night.

Fri, 10:39

England 400-plus years ago was not keen on free speech, as Prof Ged Martin explains

Fri, 09:40

An entrepreneur who secured an exclusive top prize at last year’s Thames Gateway Business Awards has spoken of the “amazing” effect it has had on his charity.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Most read news

Show Job Lists

News from your area

Competitions

Having a brand new kitchen is something that lots of people want but can only dream of. Sadly keeping up to date and making our living spaces as nice as they can be is a costly and incredibly stressful business. Even a fresh coat of paint makes all the difference but isn’t easy or quick.

Who wouldn’t love the chance to go on a shopping spree. Imagine being able to walk into a shop and choose whatever your heart desires without having to worry about how much it costs.

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Romford Recorder
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now