Giving tech-savvy teens a Facebook insight into the First World War

Oxford Mail: Nikky Arding, Diz Majores and David Noble, with a life-sized cutout of Walter Carter Nikky Arding, Diz Majores and David Noble, with a life-sized cutout of Walter Carter

WALTER Carter just updated his Facebook status: “Imagine wars being fought in the sky… that would be a thrill.”

Walter is a fictional 19-year-old private in the Territorial Force living in Clapham, South London, exactly 100 years ago.

He was created by design company DNA– based in Ardington, near Wantage – to teach teenagers about life on the front line and the home front during the First World War.

On August 4, Britain will declare war on Germany, and unknown to Walter and his family, he will be called up to fight on the front line.

He will be updating his Facebook status about three times a week for the next four years during the course of the conflict.

His fictional friends and family in Clapham will comment on his status updates while he reports on life from the front.

Although he is fictional, everything that happens to Walter will be firmly based in fact.

DNA managing director David Noble, who lives in Ardington with his wife Jo – youth theatre director at the Oxford Playhouse – said: “This is a project which has caught all our imaginations.”

Walter Carter was conceived by DNA account manager Diz Majores, who grew up in Ambrosden near Bicester. She said: “At the moment, Walter’s life is ticking along fairly normally with little knowledge of what will happen.

“For us he has already become part of the family, and we are hoping people will get involved and share that with him.

“Some people who are 14 could be friends with Walter until they’re 18, those are four of the most important years of anyone’s life.”

She added: “Facebook has all the right tools to tell a story – links, words, pictures, audio – it is the ideal combination.”

Anyone in the world can “friend” Walter on Facebook, and he already has more than 800. Friends can comment on his updates, but all comments are vetted by DNA before being published.

Right now, Walter is working at Clapham Railway station, living at home with his mum, dad and four siblings.

He joined the Territorial Forces – later to become the Territorial Army – in 1912.

At that point, the TF did not actually go to war, but that was to change.

After war is declared in Walter’s world this August, he will be called up to train at Wimbledon then at St Alban’s in Hertfordshire.

Next year, his battalion, the 1/23rd (County of London) Battalion, London Regiment, will be the second battalion called to the front line.

The firm has been working on the project with Wands-worth Borough Council and Greater London Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’Association for the past year. Walter joined Facebook in March, and DNA officially launched the project at a ceremony in Clapham on June 11.

The project has been backed by the Department for Education and the Department for Communities and Local Government.

To make friends with Walter, go to facebook.com/WW1SoldiersTale

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