My great-grandfather and the Great War
Thanks to players like you, over the past two decades war veterans have been given the opportunity to return to the battle sites and remember the fallen. But that's not all. With lottery funding to education projects across the country, a new generation – like nine-year-old Thomas Dearlove – can learn about history and trace their ancestors' footsteps.
Thomas was a typical nine year old, more interested in football than history. That is, until his school sent an email to parents asking for memorabilia to mark the centenary of the First World War.
His mum, Rebecca, found his great-grandad's helmet, cutlery, T-shirt and a box - and showed her son a remarkable memento.
"Souvenir of Great War," wrote Leslie Sharp on its wrapping. "Cigar given to me by a German during 1914 Christmas Truce at Chapelle Armentieres."
It was an extraordinary story of the First World War, when the firing stopped and soldiers from both sides exchanged gifts on Christmas Day. Leslie survived the War. His youngest brother, Ernest – Thomas's great-uncle – did not.
Thomas and his mum, along with 30 others linked to Carlton Central Junior School in Nottingham, travelled to Ypres in October last year to learn more about the First World War. The children were so inspired by what they were seeing, they decided they wanted to re-enact the Christmas Day Truce football game Tommy’s great-grandfather had taken part in. “Tommy had been telling everyone about it and it just felt like the right thing to do to honour the men and women who had fought in the war,” says Martin Kerry, one of the trip’s organisers. “It wasn't on exactly the same spot, but that didn't matter. And England won 2-0!”
The children are now re-seeding poppy seeds in a special poppy garden at the school – 12,000 seeds, one for each of the men and women from the area that died in World War One. The project has proved so popular with the pupils that the school will be continuing with activities for the next four years.
Thomas was one of more than 3,000 school children who took part in Centenary projects last year thanks to support from National Lottery players.