Students at Thornton Public School have helped uncover an amazing war story as part of an Anzac project with a school in Turkey.
The Thornton Public and TED Mersin College students wrote letters to each other about their ancestors for the project, which helped uncover the story of Charlie Ryan and inspired local authors and historians John Gillam and Yvonne Fletcher and illustrator Lillian Webb to create the book Turkish Charlie Ryan.
It is Yvonne and John's sixth book collaboration and tells the story of Australian Major General Sir Charles Snodgrass Ryan. He served as a surgeon in the Turkish army in the Balkans and, 40 years later, showed incredible heroism for Australia during the Gallipoli campaign, particularly on the brief armistice on May 24, 1915.
Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison acknowledged the students' contribution to the book after she joined Mr Gillam and Ms Fletcher and illustrator Lillian Webb at the launch of the book at the ANZAC Memorial in Sydney's Hyde Park.
"Incredibly, Turkish Charlie Ryan is a story that could have been completely forgotten in Australia if it wasn't for the students at Thornton Public School and TED Mersin College," Ms Aitchison said.
"Now hopefully all Australian school students will get to know about it."
During the ANZAC Centenary, students at TED Mersin College, guided by their history teacher Celal Yildirim, reached out to the families of the ANZACs through a project they called "Two Trenches One Letter".
The project was so successful in forming a relationship between the ANZAC and Mehmet descendants it evolved into Skype sessions where the students could connect with each other more naturally.
It was at these Skype sessions that the students from TED Mersin College asked Mrs Fletcher and Mr Gillam if they knew who Charles Ryan was.
"Suddenly it was a case of the students teaching the teachers," Ms Aitchison said. "The historical search undertaken by Mrs Fletcher and Mr Gillam, and inspired by the students, developed into a book."
Ms Aitchison received an engraved plaque on behalf of her husband Councillor Robert Aitchison, who provided the Skype facilities at their then-company headquarters in Thornton.