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BATTLE HERO INSPIRED ME AWARD: Janet; Now vicar honours a brave girl in his name.

Byline: KRYSTA EAVES

A VICAR has honoured her ancestor who fought at the Battle of Trafalgar by giving an award to a brave schoolgirl.

The Reverend Janet Fife, of St Mark's Church, Marske, has created an award in honour of her ancestor Captain Fife, a hero from the Battle of Trafalgar.

Ms Fife, 56, said, "Thomas Fife was born in Archdeacon Newton, which is very close to Cockerton, in 1774 and went to sea as a teenager. By the time of the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, Thomas was 27 and had gained the rank of First Lieutenant on the Belleisle.

"During the battle Belleisle lost her masts, her sails, her rudder and became completely unmanoeuvrable.

"Her men continued to fire at enemy ships as much as possible and refused to surrender, despite heavy losses. Thomas survived, however, and became a Captain in 1809."

After researching her family history, and finding she had a war hero as an ancestor Ms Fife decided to create an award in honour of him.

She said: "His story inspired me and I just felt that he was well worth remembering. He came from such a poor background from a tiny village but his story is extraordinary.

"On Belleisle the men were told to lie down to get away from the shots but the officers had to stand upright throughout the cannon fire and Thomas stuck it out.

"Over the years I managed to confirm the story - that's when it came alive to me. He was an inspiring example and as a family we wanted to remember him so we decided on creating the award."

Ms Fife, who lives in Marske, said: "I wanted to commemorate Thomas' bravery in the hope that his story would encourage young people today.

"It's a character award and we were looking for a kid from the same area as him with the same guts and spirit."

The first Captain Fife award was presented to Emily Hewitt, aged 10, of Cockerton Church of England Primary School, Darlington.

Emily was given the award in recognition of her bravery after her mother, Soo Hewitt, was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, while the rest of her family were abroad.

Ms Fife said: "Emily showed enormous courage during her mum's treatment, kept up with her schoolwork and continued to be kind and considerate of other people."

"Emily is excited about the award, and says that she was 'really touched to be picked out from all the kind people in our school.' "Thomas is an excellent example of what can be achieved by hard work, perseverance, enterprise, and courage in the face of adversity.

"He had done his duty in the midst of fear, pain and exhaustion, and had refused to give in.

"Emily is a worth recipient of the memorial in his name."

CAPTION(S):

AWARD: Janet Fife, right, with a certificate presented to her in honour of her ancestor, and with award winner Emily Hewitt and her mum Soo, left Main picture by MICHELLE MADDISON
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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Aug 3, 2010
Words:503
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