Research into men from Portobello who went to fight in World War I began long before the trip to Gallipoli. The school (then called Portobello Burgh Public School) had opened in 1876 and by 1914 there were 1042 students on roll and 28 members of staff. Following the outbreak of war in 1914 a number of staff and former pupils enlisted and the impact of this can be seen immediately upon entering the current building (now on a different site to the original school) with a memorial tablet to the 74 former pupils who died in the conflict. This Roll of Honour formed the staring point for the research into local soldiers who went to war.
School Librarian Lauren Thow began to look into the school records and engaged students in researching individual men using census returns and military archives. This led to a series of BBC radio programmes called ‘The school that went to war’, broadcast in 2014. A further programme invited local primary pupils to visit Portobello High School and find out how the students went about their research. You can listen to this here.
Five of the soldiers on the Roll of Honour were killed at Gallipoli – four of them on the same day. During the visit to Gallipoli in October 2015, three students from Portobello High School carried out short commemoration ceremonies for each of these five soldiers. One has a grave at Skew Bridge Cemetery and the other four are recorded on the Helles Memorial as their bodies remained on the battlefield and were not recovered until after the war, when they could no longer be identified. Watch these commemorations in the video below.