Hunton teenager discovers war hero while researching family tree

Richmond School and Sixth Form College student Grace Morris with her war hero relative Edward Dwyer

History homework has sparked a story of love and war after a Hunton schoolgirl traced her family tree to a heroic soldier.

Richmond School and Sixth Form College student Grace Morris was challenged to find a World War I story in her family and her research revealed a relative who won the Victoria Cross.

The 13-year-old discovered that her great, great, great uncle Edward Dwyer had single-handedly fought off German infantry, at the infamous Hill 60 in the battle of Ypres, by hurling countless hand-grenades to protect his trench.

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Sustaining a head injury in the attack he was nursed back to health in a front-line hospital by a Canadian nurse who he later married.

One of the youngest to be ever awarded the Victoria Cross, the Lance Corporal, of the 1st Battalion East Surrey Regiment, was used in a national recruitment campaign, a recording of his voice now the oldest remaining WWI audio record of its type.

He married his nurse Maude Barrett-Freeman in December 1915 but returned to France to fight again as he didn’t like his recruitment role. In September 1916 he was killed leading his men at the Battle of the Somme.

Maude Barrett-Freeman, who tended the injured Edward Dwyer and later married him.

Grace said: “When I asked my mum she said there was a good story in the family but I didn’t expect this. My dad didn’t know much about it at all because it was my mum’s side of the family and the more we researched the more interesting it became.

Edward wasn’t a model soldier; he was very mischievous. He stole men’s boots and sold them and claimed it was because someone had stolen his. The mayor of Fulham, where he was from, refused to put a plaque up because of that, apparently.

This research has certainly increased my love of history, which I will probably now study at GCSE.”

An image of L.Cpl Edward Dwyer fighting off the Germans.

History teacher Stacey Ridley said: “I am so glad I set the class this homework. I had no idea it would reveal such hidden gems. Grace’s research has been absolutely fantastic and stunned me.

“I’m really proud of the hard work Grace and her classmates put into the project.”