School trip to Somme battle fields leads Camden teenager to great uncle’s long lost grave

Jack Kennedy with his great-great uncle's WW1 gravestone on the Somme battle fields

Jack Kennedy with his great-great uncle's WW1 gravestone on the Somme battle fields - Credit: Archant

A schoolboy on a field trip to the site of the bloodiest battle in the First World War made a startling discovery – his great-great uncle’s gravestone.

Jack Kennedy, 13, said he was “overwhelmed” when he stumbled upon the final resting place of ancestor Edward Thomas Toole at a cemetery for fallen British soldiers at the Battle of the Somme.

The youngster, who lives in Adelaide Road, Swiss Cottage, paid his respects by laying a poppy cross at the graveside of the lance corporal, who died in battle on September 15, 1916, aged just 19.

He was part of the 19th Battalion London County, one of the so called “pals battalions” made up of soldiers who grew up, joined up, trained, fought and possibly died together.

Jack, who was visiting as part of his history studies at Holloway School, Islington, said: “It was quite incredible to see the grave there. It made me very proud but at the same time quite sad as well.

“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 World War One.”

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Holloway School funded the £6,000 trip using 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 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. We decided that would not be fair.”

Jack’s mum 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 have done for the kids.

“Learning it in a book is all very well but when you see it yourself, for real, it is a different story.”