Schoolboy Chase Nichols reveals tragic wartime story behind his relative’s death at the Somme
- Credit: Nick Butcher
All schoolboy Chase Nichols knew about his great great grandfather was that his was the fourth name carved in stone on Great Yarmouth's war memorial.
The horrors of war and the reality of life, and death in the mud-churned battlefields seemed a world away and apparently unconnected with his life in the town a century later.
But a school project has changed all that.
Distilled from a range of newspaper clippings, letters, conversations with ageing relatives, and official reports, the 12-year-old has produced a 2,000 word essay chronicling life in the town during the First World War.
And on a personal level he has dug deep into the tragic story of Private Harold Aldred, one of tens of thousands of soldiers killed on the Somme.
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His diligent archival efforts have revealed much about the impact of one man's death on an ordinary family, and won him a prestigious history prize.
Crucially he was able to speak to Harold's still-living daughter Iris who at 101 was able to shed light on what happened next, although she was just a few months old when he died.
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A cherished handwritten letter offering comfort and heartfelt sympathy, was, it turned out, a standard dispatch.
Chase found out that Harold lived in Vauxhall Street, Runham Vauxhall and was tailor working for Mr Larke in King Street.
At 20 he married Hilda and had two children Iris and Olive.
Because of huge losses at the front Harold was sent to fight with The Buffs rather than the Norfolk regiment and having joined up in April 1915, he crossed to France in September the following year.
However, after just a few months on November 6, at the age of 23, he was killed.
According to the letter sent by the company commander his death was 'absolutely instantaneous' when a mortar struck while he was on sentry duty with two others who also died.
Afterwards Hilda lost her home and had to move in with her parents until she remarried.
Chase, a Year 7 pupil at Great Yarmouth High School, has been awarded the first AAC Hedges local history prize by the Great Yarmouth Grammar School Foundation for his work on Great Yarmouth in the First World War.
He was handed a cheque for £150 and a book about Yarmouth history.
Judges said the work submitted by Chase Nichols was well-researched, took advantage of oral history techniques, and his evidence gleaned from older relatives centred on the impact of the First World War on his family in the town.
Michael Boon, chairman of the The Great Yarmouth Grammar School Foundation which presented the prize to the high school pupil, said Chase was a well-deserved recipient who had taken considerable time to bring the elements of his research together.
Louise Jackson, head at Great Yarmouth School, said: 'I am extremely proud of Chase's well-deserved award and recognition.
'He is a very polite and committed pupil who relishes any opportunities to learn and progress.
'Chase is an excellent ambassador for our school.'
The ACC Hedges History Prize was established by his son Rhys Hedges in memory of the former Yarmouth borough librarian.