Teens bid to track down war graves

FILE PIC TAKEN 28 JUNE 2011''Students from Springwell Dene school, Ryan Andrew Dunning, Daniel Cain, Joshua Armstrong and David Fowler with their research and pictures of a Sunderland soldier's grave which they traced on a recent trip to Germany.
FILE PIC TAKEN 28 JUNE 2011''Students from Springwell Dene school, Ryan Andrew Dunning, Daniel Cain, Joshua Armstrong and David Fowler with their research and pictures of a Sunderland soldier's grave which they traced on a recent trip to Germany.
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TEENAGERS at a city school are offering to help families track down the graves of Wearside war heroes.

Students from Springwell Dene School are planning a trip to France’s Somme Battlefield in April and they are inviting people to get in touch if they want them to find the graves of soldiers killed in action.

Last year, a group of pupils from the school helped the family of Hendon soldier Private George Moffatt Knill, who was killed in action almost 94 years ago, when they tracked down his grave and laid a wreath there for the first time.

After months of researching to find information about Pte Knill, a member of the 7th Battalion Durham Light Infantry, and two days searching war cemeteries in France, the teenagers eventually found the Sunderland soldier’s grave and were able to lay the poppy wreath.

The quest to find Pte Knill’s grave came after Michelle Hansen, a teacher at Springwell Dene, which caters for young people with emotional and behavioural problems, mentioned to her mum, Ruth Swalwell, 74, that a group was going to France to visit the war graves.

It transpired it had been the lifelong dream of Ruth’s late dad Alfred Knill to visit the grave of his brother, George, so the youngsters set about looking for it.

Allan Douglas, assistant headteacher at Springwell Dene, said the school is planning to take another group of students there in April and would like to hear from anyone who has a relative who was killed in the Somme area and would like their war grave tracked down.

He said: “Finding the grave really brought home to the kids the reality of it all, especially as Pte Knill lived in Hendon, a few streets away from one of our lads.

“It gives the trip greater interest for the young people, enabling the students to play a greater positive role in society is one of our many aims.”

Anyone with a relative killed in the First World War whose remains are buried in the Somme region and would like the students to look for the grave should contact the school on 553 6067.

Twitter: @SunEchoSchools