I am a student of Scoil Chríost Rí who has always had a great interest in history. I first heard of the competition in school from my TY year head, Ms. Dollard. She informed us what she knew, to write an essay and submit it on why I should be chosen, and encouraged anyone interested in history to enter. Out of everyone, I was lucky enough to be picked to represent Henry and Laois on this trip.
I started my research by searching the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for Henry. I found him, and also a small amount of information on his mother and father's names and where he was from. Then, I searched the Census online from both 1901 and 1911 and was surprised and disappointed to find nothing on Henry, his father or his mother. I tried several variations of each name, and nothing. I was very confused as they didn't seem to be anywhere in Ireland. In pure desperation, I googled "Henry Pemberton Dudley" and suddenly was hit with multiple websites including Henry's name, and even a records of where he was living etc.
To further my research, I contacted the Abbeyleix Parish to ask of anyone in the parish may be related to a Henry Dudley and they got back to tell me no relatives of his lived in the area. Next I contacted a man named David Orford, who is well known in Portarlington for being very involved in History. I sent him an email on any information I knew and informing him I was seeking for more information on my soldier. He got back to me, with an email of another man named Charles Ward who did research on all the WWI soldiers in Laois, but unfortunately he only had information I already knew.
With all the information I collected on Henry, I transferred and simplified into a PowerPoint. On 7th March, each of the county's representatives and the co-ordinators met at Collins Barracks in Dublin to discuss our soldier. We were separated into our provinces, and Leinster being the biggest we didn't have much time to talk. Each person spoke to the group about their soldier and we tried to get to know each person also. After, one from each province presented their soldiers spectacularly and the trip to the Somme in June was discussed.
I still have more research to complete as I am not fully satisfied not knowing Henry's siblings, and also to find out what happened to Henry's mother after his father died.
I am looking forward to meeting all the representatives and co-ordinators again come the end of June to finally get to see Henry's grave, and bring a piece of Ireland with me.
One of the main reasons I personally wanted to get involved in this project was because my great grandfather, William, and his brother, Hugh, fought in World War I. Unfortunately Hugh died in battle over in the Somme, but we've had his medals at home ever since my grandfather died. I have always been very intrigued by the medals but never sought out to find what he had received them for.
He was Scottish, so I didn't think it would be suitable to go over representing Laois with someone who never lived in Laois, but I still contacted my grandmother, Hugh's niece, to gather more information never talked about before on Hugh. No one discussed either men before in my family due to my grandfathers reluctance and hatred for both wars while he was alive. She explained what each medal meant and how happy she was to discuss her father.
Lastly, I would like to thank everyone who supported me in my research and in the project on a whole, especially my mother and father for being there for me and encouraging me to take part in the competition, and all my friends who were supportive and constantly intrigued by the trip. I would like to say a huge thanks to Ms. Anne Dollard, my TY co-ordinator, for introducing me to the project and for the constant praise and having full confidence in me throughout the year.
Also, I would like to thank the trip co-ordinators Gerry Moore and Michael Collins as well as Aidan Rafferty for making this experience possible to begin with. The idea has been incredible and without their organisation, I wouldn't be writing on this website, learning about an amazing part of history on such a personal level. Thanks to those sponsoring the trip and RTÉ, who play a roll in helping getting our soldier's stories seen by the public, and making everyone more aware of our history.
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