A century on from his death, Tottenham soldier Private George Baxter Lowson has been celebrated in a fitting, contemporary memorial created by two students from Vale Special School, Haringey.
Jhonattan and Zac were so inspired by the story of George Baxter Lowson that they wrote and produced their song and rap, ‘My Mate George’, which was performed in London and Belgium as part of the Battle of Passchendaele commemorations.
The creation of the song followed the students’ participation in the government-funded First World War Centenary Battlefield Tours Programme in February 2015, during which they visited Ypres and The Somme, and were accompanied by their Deputy Headteacher, Tony Millard.
The students initially recorded a version of the song when they returned to school, and it has been performed in front of numerous local audiences, including 800 people at Alexandra Palace, in addition to receiving over 1,500 views to date on YouTube: http://bit.ly/1QksQYh
George Baxter Lowson worked in a Tottenham rubber factory before leaving to fight in Belgium. He died in the Ypres Salient on 22nd August 1917, aged 30. Jhonattan and Zac, who both have cerebral palsy, were initially unaware of George’s sacrifice, having been given just his name to research.
They used their local war memorial, census records and newspaper reports to trace him, and discovered that he lived close to Jhonattan, which made their findings all the more poignant. Their connection with George was enhanced when the students found his grave among almost 12,000 at Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium.
With the battlefield tours programme including representation from the British Army, the students were invited to RAF Northolt to record their song with musicians from all three of the Armed Forces.
The song has also been incorporated into a dance, drama and musical show, charting the life of George Baxter Lowson, which was performed earlier this month in conjunction with Haringey Young Musicians at key venues in Ypres and Ostend.
Emphasising the personal nature of the song, Jhonattan said, “We saw so many graves and names of fallen soldiers on the tour that we were really sad. When we found George’s grave we became very emotional. Because he was from Tottenham and lived in the street next to where I live it made us feel that we kind of knew him, as if he could have been our mate.”
The First World War Centenary Battlefield Tours Programme is delivered by UCL Institute of Education (IOE) and school tour operator Equity, and encourages younger generations to uncover personal stories like George’s and create enduring legacies that resonate with local communities.
Tony Millard, Deputy Head of Vale School, said:
“What Jhonattan and Zac have achieved with their song is just amazing. It’s inspired so many other people not only to think about the human impact of the First World War but also to appreciate what students living with disabilities can achieve for their communities. It has been an honour to record the song with today’s armed services and tour My Mate George in the place where he died. We hope we have provided a fitting tribute to George.”
Professor Stuart Foster, Executive Director of the IOE’s First World War Centenary Battlefield Tours Programme, said:
“The song ‘My Mate George’ is a reflection of the real and personal connections that students make and experience when they visit the First World War battlefields as part of our tours. The programme gives students a tangible insight into the lives of those who fought in the war, and leaves them with an appetite to learn more.
“Jhonattan and Zac did an outstanding job of connecting the history of the war to local events and people through this inspirational piece of music."