Pupils to study war hero's life story

By Juliette MaxamTHE story of a war hero who was blinded in both eyes in the First World War is to be studied by GCSE history students across the country.

By Juliette Maxam

THE story of a war hero who was blinded in both eyes in the First World War is to be studied by GCSE history students across the country.

David Melling was shot in the head and captured while defending a Turkish trench he had bravely captured at Gallipoli in 1915 when he was just 18 years old.

He was the first prisoner of war released by the Turks after the intervention of the American ambassador to Constantinople.

When Mr Melling returned to Britain, he was among the first soldiers and sailors to be rehabilitated at St Dunstan's, a national charity established in Regent's Park, London, in 1915 to provide training and care for the many thousands of young men blinded in action.

At St Dunstan's, he learned typing, Braille and poultry farming. These skills led to Mr Melling setting up a successful poultry farming business in Coggeshall, which he ran until his death in 1957.

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Mr Melling's story is part of a presentation on the National Curriculum's history syllabus, Conflict in the 20th Century, which has been specially created for secondary schools by St Dunstan's.

Pupils at Honywood Community School in Coggeshall will be the first to hear the presentation, which is being taken to secondary schools across the country in the summer term.

A soldier blinded in the Bosnian conflict, Billy Baxter, will also talk at the presentation in Coggeshall about his experiences as a frontline soldier in the Cold War.

Recently-discovered memorabilia connected with Mr Melling will be on display, including a fragile letter he dictated to a nurse in 1915, informing his mother he was about to be sent home.

Among those attending the presentation will be Braintree Labour MP Alan Hurst, who is a history graduate and a local history enthusiast.

Coggeshall Heritage Centre is to create a permanent exhibition commemorating Mr Melling's life to mark the town's pride in its rediscovered hero.

Before St Dunstan's was set up, it was commonly assumed blind people could not lead useful, indpendent lives.

Since 1915 the charity has helped more than 7,000 blinded forces men and women who have lost their sight due to war, age, accident or illness.


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