The name Alexander James Read doesn’t yet mean a lot to the children of Maitland.
As a soldier of World War I, Private Read’s name is displayed on the Woodville School of Arts Honour Roll and on panel 30 of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
And that’s all the young ones know.
But Private Read’s story – along with those of many more other young soldiers – are about to be explored and revealed as part of a project linking schoolchildren with the men of World War I.
Maitland military historians John Gillam and Yvonne Fletcher have researched the war experiences of more than 120 soldiers as part of the project, launched this week at Thornton Public School.
“We’ve put together a profile of soldiers and written their stories in first person and each student will research a particular soldier and visit their names at the war memorial,” Mr Gillam said.
“This is the first time we have done anything like this but we are hoping to roll it out to other schools across the region because the history component of what we’re doing is very valuable.”
Private Read was born in Woodville in 1882 and lied about his age to join the army.
He stood 170cm tall, weighed 66.6 kilos and had a set of upper false teeth. He trained in Egypt, helped to bury 200 bodies and on June 3, 1915, he died of pneumonia aboard a hospital ship.
Private Read was buried at sea that same day.
“I think a lot of children think Anzac soldiers are 10 feet tall and physically very strong but the reality is that they were young men and when they died there were people left behind to mourn them,” Mr Gillam said.
“And we want to tell their stories.”