A Devon schoolboy’s moving letter to an unknown WW1 soldier has won national recognition

PUBLISHED: 09:54 05 November 2014 | UPDATED: 09:54 05 November 2014

The unknown soldier sculpture at Paddington station

The unknown soldier sculpture at Paddington station


A moving poem by a Devon schoolboy in the form of a letter to an unknown soldier will be read out on national radio on Wednesday, 5 November.

The unknown soldier sculpture at Paddington stationThe unknown soldier sculpture at Paddington station

Ivybridge Community College student Jack Rhead wrote the poem as a ‘Letter to an Unknown Soldier’.

It will be read out live to the nation on Radio 4 Extra’s 4 O’Clock Show. It is one of only a few chosen by the radio show from a selection of more than 21,000.

Jack Rhead pictured at Ivybridge Community CollegeJack Rhead pictured at Ivybridge Community College

Jack’s letter was submitted as part of a national appeal for members of the public to write a letter to the ‘unknown soldier’ that stands on platform one in London’s Paddington Station.

On the 100th anniversary of the declaration of World War One, the intention of the appeal was to encourage people to stop, think, and send a personal message to this man who served and was killed during the war.

The unknown soldier sculpture at Paddington stationThe unknown soldier sculpture at Paddington station

Jack’s letter was a short poem to the soldier, highlighting the reality that no-one is actually unknown and that everyone has someone, somewhere that cares deeply for them.

He said: “I could not believe it when I found out that I had been chosen from all of those letters.

Jack’s letter to the unknown soldier

Dear Soldier

They say that you are lost, this can’t be true

You were here a month ago.

The whispers on the street

Will they ever stop?

They say that you are unknown, this can’t be true

They might not know you, but we do.

We love you, we always will.

You are a son, a dad, a brother. My brother.

They say that you are dead, this can’t be true

You are too young to die.

We are still waiting,

Waiting for you to come back.

They say that this is you, is this true?

Love from, Jack Rhead

“The statue is called the Unknown Soldier, but I wanted to show that – in reality – the soldier would not have been unknown; that he was a real person who was loved and missed by his friends, family and anyone that knew him, just like you and me.

“It was important for me to write a simple, meaningful letter that would be understood by everyone who reads it, which is why my poem is quite short. I also used repetition to make my main message more powerful.”

Jack Rhead with his poemJack Rhead with his poem

In addition to his creative talents, Jack spends a great deal of his spare time playing sport. He is a member of the college’s football academy and also plays right midfield for the Plymouth Argyle academy.

Claire Law, Jack’s English teacher, who introduced the activity as part of the class’s descriptive writing unit, said: “This is such exciting news for Jack. Some of the UK’s foremost writers have submitted letters, so we are very proud of the fact that his work has been recognized alongside theirs on a national level.

“The activity in itself was an excellent way for our students to explore their creativity. It enabled them to think about different characters, create ‘back stories’ and demonstrate how the life of just one individual can affect so many others.

“I think Jack’s poem was chosen to be read on the radio because it is simple, moving, and the structure is very appealing to a wide audience of all ages and backgrounds.”

The letter will be read out on the show between 4pm and 5pm on Wednesday 5 November.

It will also be available on the BBC iPlayer at the programme’s webpage.

All 21,439 letters can be read online at the Letter to an Unknown Soldier website.

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