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

09:52 14 March 2014


Drapers' Academy student Sian Moynihan


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 trenchesStudents 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 WarGraves 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 MemorialSian'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.”


Latest News Stories

Fly-tipping in Little Gerpins Lane

Fly-tippers blocked Little Gerpins Lane, in Upminster, with rubbish, just one minute away from Gerpins Lane Reuse and Recycling Centre.

Police are appealing for information

A terrifying late-night attack left two teenagers in hospital after they were hit by a car and then assaulted by three men who got out of it.

View of London City Airport from the sky Picture: Andrew Holt

Campaign groups have expressed their opposition to the decision to allow a 30per cent increase in planes to fly over parts of Havering.

Elm Park Merry Minon Christmas celebration. Elexis Woodhall, seven with minons

Minions worked to ensure festive fun was had by all in Elm Park on Friday.

The Rubettes Featuring Alan Williams

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas as the nights get darker, gifts are being bought and the radio is full of classic hits.

Junior doctors have voted in favour of strike action (Pic:PA)

Junior doctors voted in favour of strike action over contract changes proposed by the Health Secretary.

Scargill Infant School pupils with K-9 staff

Animal-loving youngsters were taught how to look after their pets when a dog rescue charity visited their school.

Queen's Hospital, Rom Valley Way, Romford

Medical staff working in Havering and Redbridge were the victims of more than 400 physical assaults over the past 12 months.

Most read news

News from your area


Click on the banner above for full coverage of the centenary commemorations of the outbreak of the First World War.


Nike Trainers

Nike’s motto is ‘to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.’ With this in mind it’s no surprise why Nike is the preferred training gear for most A-list athletes. Get an extra boost in your run or height in your jump with £500 to spend on Nike trainers.

MAC Makeup

MAC are renowned for their flawless, fabulous make up that is used worldwide by the stars. You too can have the chance to have the perfect makeup to suit your needs with £1,000 to spend on all the glam goodies you like!

Digital Edition

Read the Romford Recorder e-edition today E-edition
Family Notices 24

Local business directory

Our trusted business finder