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Tuesday, 21 June 2016 19:08

An awesome WW1 Research Project: St John’s Catholic Comprehensive, Gravesend

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Last Thursday, I had the privilege of attending the launch of Volume Three of the outcomes of St John's Catholic Comprehensive School awesome Historical Project, entitled “The Valour Still Shines” totalling 1250 expertly researched and professionally produced pages of detail, a superb model of research by any standard. The three book set records the lives and deaths of the 565 names on Gravesend’s Town War Memorial on Windmill Hill, along with much additional and relevant information about the war, the battles and the local history of the town and the Memorial.

st Johns WW1 Project

What is even more remarkable is that such a project has been undertaken by over a hundred History Society students and others following the school Applied History GCSE Course. Not surprisingly, such an endeavour was led by an inspirational figure, in this case, Colm Murphy, a history teacher at the school, who has recently been awarded the accolade of Kent History Teacher of the Year. 

Coincidentally,……

I have been researching in a minor way the sixty names on the Christ Church, Gravesend, Memorial stone, which was recently re-discovered, having been interred in the church grounds for the past eighty years, as explained below.

The Windmill Hill biographies were created using various sources from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website through to Pension Records, Census Returns, newspaper reports and obituaries and drawing on Regimental Histories and books on the subject. One aim was to have as many illustrations as possible and even if there is not a portrait, every serviceman who fell in France or Belgium has an image of their headstone or name on a Memorial included. This required several well organised trips to France and Belgium to cover the many soldiers commemorated there. The students benefitted from help by staff and from many local historians as well as relatives of the casualties. Sponsorship was provided from Gravesham Council which paid for the first book and from the Heritage Lottery which paid for the following two volumes. The three books cover 565 names – each volume comprising over 400 pages, A4, softback and heavily illustrated. Books retail at £25 each to include postage from the school.

The school is widely recognised for its expertise in this area and is regularly chosen to represent English students at commemoration events. There is an all night vigil at Westminster Abbey, in the presence of the Queen, on the evening before 1st July. Members of the school are giving several of the readings at the vigil, whilst others will form the Guard of Honour at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior  during part of the night. In addition students and staff at St John's have organised and are taking part in a  Charity Cycle Challenge from Gravesend to Ypres and back beginning on 2nd July.

This is not a Society that rests on its laurels and now the Windmill Hill Memorial set of volumes is completed, the students are focusing on the many other memorials in the Borough starting with those in the Swanscombe area.

There is an accompanying website and the progress and work may be followed here – www.gravesend14-18.co.uk

Christ Church WW1 Memorial
Not really anything to do with schools or education, but an interesting story. The original Christ Church in Gravesend collapsed in 1932, and was rebuilt half a mile away at Echo Square in 1935, based on the original design and mainly using the original materials. In 1922 a War Memorial had been placed in the original church recording the names of 60 casualties connected with the church, although a number were missed out in the recording of deaths. Four years ago, whilst gardening in the current church grounds, the memorial was discovered buried in the ground, although no explanation for the interment  ninety years ago, is known. The stone had a piece broken off it and erosion had completely worn away the names.  
Memorial Stone
The church is commemorating the centenary of WW1 this year as part of a Diocesan timetable, and it has been decided to honour the casualties of war by dedicating a replacement memorial to be consecrated by the Bishop of Rochester on 15th September. A transcript of the 60 names has been found, and they will be recorded on the new memorial.

I have been researching the names, greatly aided by the arrival of the St John's research books, partially so that we can trace any descendants of relatives. You will find further information about the memorial, together with a list of the names, along with the results of my research so far here

Read 1597 times Last modified on Wednesday, 07 December 2016 16:46

1 comment

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 22 June 2016 12:44 posted by Rachael P.

    I don't want to be picky about such a wonderful effort, but are you actually qualified to assess the QUALITY of the research? PETER: Actually I believe I am, with a Master's Degree including a large module on educational research, and a Diploma in Genealogy, the degree equivalent qualification for a professional genealogist, which i was for several years.

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