My name is Leslie McCarthy and I'm a 17 year old secondary school student from Tralee Co. Kerry. I heard about the My Adopted Soldier programme through my history teacher Margaret Barry and I was instantly intrigued by what sounded like an unbelievable opportunity to visit the Somme region in France. There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to enter this competition.
Each applicant had to write a short 300 word essay detailing why they should be chosen to represent their county in the Somme. I wrote about my deep love of history and the family connection I have with this specific historical time frame of WW1.
My Great-Grandfather, Denis Edward Tangney, fought in and survived The Great War. He sustained a shrapnel injury to his thigh during the Battle of Ypres and walked with a limp for the rest of his life.
I was astonished and thrilled when my history teacher took me out of class one day to tell me that I had been chosen to represent Kerry in this project. I was delighted to be given such a unique opportunity.
A short time later I received the name of the soldier that I would research as part of this trip to the Somme. The name I was given was Charles Francis Conway. Immediately I began to research this solider in order to find out as much as I could about him.
The 1901 and 1911 census gave me some basic family details about Charles. The Kerry County Library provided me with a small amount of information on his rank, battalion and date of death. I found out that Charles fought in the same battalion as my Great-Grandfather ( The 8th Battalion Royal Munster Fusiliers) and as this battalion was known for its high number of Limerick recruits the Tralee men would have stuck together, meaning it was quite possible that Charles and Denis would have known each other. Charles and my Great-Grandfather would have also been quite close in age, Charles being either 17 or 19 and Denis being in his early twenties. However all in all the amount of information I received about Charles from online sources was nowhere near enough.
tracking down family
Months went by and I was still clinging on to the limited information I had unearthed about Charles. It became increasingly evident that I needed to find living relatives of Charles in order to gain sufficient information about my adopted soldier and so I embarked on a media campaign!
Being a naturally shy person, this period of my research was particularly challenging. It was a frequent occurrence to see me at a laptop on a Saturday afternoon attempting to gain contact with newspapers and radio stations so I could somehow get the message out that I was looking for Charles' relatives.
I got in touch with a local website, Tralee Today, who cover news from Tralee and the surrounding areas. They were very helpful and offered to do an article in order to help me track down some of Charles family.
Check out the article from Tralee Today here
I also got in contact with RadioKerry and I was able to organise an interview on their morning show on a Monday morning. Not only did this interview allow me to miss three hours of school it also provided me with exactly what I intended to obtain from my media endeavors. Charles nephew Martin Conway contacted the show and left his contact details in order for me to talk to him again.
This was the article posted by RadioKerry on their Website and a snippet of the interview can be played here. The full interview can be found on iTunes under RadioKerry Podcasts.
The Kerry's Eye were very kind in running an article about how I was able to track down Charles' family and find out more about his life.
meeting the family
After calling Martin Conway, we were put in contact with various other members of the extended Conway family who had previously researched Charles, in particular Stephen Fernane . Stephen's wife is Charles' niece. Both Stephen and Martin had carried out extensive research on Charles and were very kind in lending me anything they had found that would contribute to my research.
We decided to dedicate a day to meeting any of the Conways who had research to present or who wanted to find out more about the project and what it entailed.
From left to right:
~Martin Conway (Charles' nephew)
~Robbie Tangney (On Skype, my Grand-Uncle and son of my Great-Grandfather who fought in The Great War.)
~Maureen O' Sullivan.
~Stephen Fernane (Charles' nephew-in-law)
Also on the table a WW1 bayonet can be seen to the right of the laptop.
Martin Conway can be seen showing Charles' death penny to my Grand-Uncle Robbie over Skype.
My Uncle Robert (Author of "The History of Ballymullen Barracks") can be seen showing Charles' family some old maps and pictures of Ballymullen Barracks. A Christmas 1914 gift box can also be seen on the table. These boxes were sent to soldiers in the trenches during the Christmas of 1914 and contained small presents such as tobacco and sweets.
Collins' barracks 07/03/2015
On the 7th of March every student that's participating in the My Adopted Soldier programme along with all the organisers and teachers involved met in Collin's Barracks. A few of the participants gave PowerPoint presentations on their soldiers and we also split into groups according to our provinces to get to know each other a little bit better.
This is a video from the day at Collins' Barracks.
MyAdoptedSoldier on YouTube
The My Adopted Soldier programme has established its own YouTube Channel! On this channel you can find videos providing information about the project, video diaries from the participants themselves and vlogs from the trip to The Somme.
This is my short introduction to my soldier Private Charles Francis Conway.
Subscribe to our channel which can be found here to receive video updates on this amazing project.
my adopted soldier 2015 somme trip
On the 26th of June the every participant met in Ratra House in the Phoenix Park in Dublin. We said goodbye to our parents and we said hello to the participants that we would share four unforgettable days with. We boarded our bus and headed off to Áras an Úachtaráin.
Here, we all met Michael D. Higgins and had some tea and cake before driving to the airport.
That evening we arrived in Brussels Airport and got a bus to our hotel in Albert.
On the 27th of June we embarked on a day long trip to countless cemeteries to visit the graves of many of the soldiers that were researched.