Pupils research lives of fallen FPs

Research conducted by High School of Dundee pupils has shed light on the lives of FPs who were killed in action in WW1, and allowed a new name to be added to the School’s War Memorial. 

Pupils at the High School of Dundee have been researching the lives of fallen FPs

Back in April, pupils who were at the time in L7, visited the Étaples Cemetery - the largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission site in France – as part of the year group’s trip to the Opal Coast.

There, the pupils were able to locate the final resting places of four FPs* who had died during the First World War and hold a moving ceremony in which they placed crosses - which they had made themselves with the help of the School’s Technology department - at the graves.

However, the visit to the Cemetery took on extra significance because prior to setting off for France, the pupils had been able to build up real and vivid impressions of the lives of the four FPs by using the British Newspaper Archive to track down obituaries and other articles contained in the likes of the Courier and People’s Journal newspapers over 100 years ago.

In addition, research carried out by the pupils also revealed that another FP had not been listed on the School’s WW1 Roll of Honour. As a consequence, they were able to ensure that the name of Pte. James McCulloch was one of the 84 which have just been added to the School’s War Memorial, having been missing from the original monument.

Pupils visited the graves of FPs at the Étaples Cemetery

Junior Years Teacher Niall Joss, who organised the research project, said, “This was an occasion that I am certain will stay in the memories of our young people for a long time.

“After last year’s trip, some research done in the school found that four Former Pupils have their final resting place in the cemetery. Using the British Newspaper Archive, obituaries from the Dundee Courier were found, by which the local population of Dundee would have learned of the deaths of these men during the war. Using these articles, the pupils were able to learn about the lives of these four men and what they were like as individuals.

“To also have been able to uncover the name of an FP which was missing from the School’s Roll of Honour, and to then see it added to the War Memorial, is something that the pupils can be very proud of.

“The way in which the pupils approached this commemoration showed that even more than a century after these FPs made the ultimate sacrifice, their memory lives on.”

David Powell, Archive Manager for DC Thomson & Co Ltd, said, “I’m so pleased with the way Niall’s class activity worked out and the impact it has had on the pupils. 

“The BNA isn’t just a family history tool but something that can help us really understand the lives and experiences of our predecessors. What may have seemed to some like a very dry research activity has obviously had a real effect on the pupils, and literally walking in the footsteps of the FPs, having learned something about them, will always be a powerful experience.”

*The four FPs were:  Capt. Aitken Brown; Lt. George C Leslie; 2nd Lt. Neil MacVicar; and Pte. Thomas McCulloch.