A CHANCE discovery of a glass jar on a Mersea beach has uncovered stories of loyalty and bravery - and triggered a lottery-funded school project.

The jar, found in 1988, contained a 1919 penny, a letter and a faded photograph.

A generation later, schoolchildren will be able to out about life in World War I with the help of a biplane and a £10,000 grant.

Investigations found the jar had been buried in 1927 at the woodland grave of a fox terrier called Mick, who had been owned by brothers Percy and Edgar Roberts.

At the outbreak of the First World War, the brothers joined the infantry with Edgar transferring to the Royal Flying Corps in 1916.

He was accompanied on his fighter pilot missions by Mick and both survived the conflict. Percy, however was killed in the trenches in 1918.

When Mick died, Edgar buried him in a cliff top wood. Over time, the grave was disturbed and the jar fell on to the beach.

Author Veronique Eckstein used the heart-warming tale as the basis of her children's book Mersea Mick.

Now, through the Mersea Island Tales Educational Trust, Veronique has secured a £10,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to set up a pilot history project.

Through it, schoolchildren learn about the First World War as the conflict’s centenary approaches.

A barn at Ivy Farm, in East Mersea, has been transformed into a First World War mess and students are taught about life on an Edwardian farm.

Veronique also approached the museum at Stow Maries Aerodrome asking to borrow a flag - and was instead lent a replica of a 1916 Sopwith Pup biplane and a First World War truck.

Volunteer vintage display pilots David Body and Ian Draper will tell the children about the fledgling planes, held together with canvas and rope.

Meanwhile soldiers from 217 Field Squadron (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) 33 Regiment, Royal Engineers Army Reserve (Territorials) have organised metal detecting and other activities to support the project.

A tree of poppies has also been created which have been knitted and crocheted by a team of volunteers lead by Marjorie Sansome.

Veronique said: "A total of 320 men from Mersea Island fought in the First World War and 50 did not return.

"Children can look into the history of the 270 who came home.

"Through Mick, we also encourage them to think about the role of animals in the war, the horses, donkeys and pigeons which died."

Visit www.merseaislandtales.co.uk for further information.