A local student is currently the only Northern Irish person participating in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) intern programme in France.
Former Ballyclare High School pupil, Andrew Brolly (19) is working at the Thiepval Memorial, having got involved in the initiative after seeing an article in the Times last year.
The Parkgate man carries out a number of tasks including, welcoming people to the site, explaining the work of the CWGC, offers short tours of the site and helps people find names and relatives both on the site itself and finding more data at the desk in the visitor centre.
Andrew said: “It’s a huge honour and privilege for me to be the only person from Northern Ireland taking part in the internship, especially because of the strong connections that Ulster has to the First World War and the Somme.
“It’s interesting finding out information about the stories of soldiers from home and helping explain that to members of the public who may not know the role that people from Ulster had to play in the war.”
Andrew, who is studying politics at Stirling University, continued: “It’s very humbling and moving to stand in the memorial looking out where the German and British front lines were on July 1 1916 whilst trying to imagine what it could have been like on that day and the 141 days of the Somme offensive.
“My great great uncle James Harper fought and died on July 1 1916 and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial so this family connection makes me feel even more privileged to be here for the ceremonies taking place.”
The Co Antrim teen had an interest in the history of the First World War ahead of his work with the intern programme. He had visited cemeteries and memorials on the Somme in 2009 with family such as Connaught Cemetery, Thiepval and the Ulster Tower.
Andrew is pleased to be taking part in the project this year and would urge other young people to get involved next year. He said: “I’d encourage other students with an interest in the subject to get involved with the CWGC interns programme in 2018. I’d like to thank Nigel Dodds and the Newtownabbey Times for spreading the word about the interns programme because otherwise I probably wouldn’t have seen it. I’d also like to thank my mum, Wendy Brolly, because she’s the one who spotted this story and told me about it.
“I’m having an incredible time here working for the War Graves Commission.”
and I’m getting to experience so much more than I thought I would.”
Andrew is set to commence the second year of his degree the day after his internship finishes. He explained: “My role as an intern will officially end on Sunday, September 10, after which a new group will take over from the current 12 based at Thiepval in France and Tyne cot in Belgium.
“My university semester begins on Monday, September 11 so I will be heading straight from France to Stirling.”