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Forces War Records Blog


Blogger: GemSen The horrors of trench warfare were hard to endure for any soldier, but for a boy of 12 they must have been purely terrifying. It’s actually almost hard to believe, but indeed a boy of 12 has been officially recognised as the youngest soldier to fight in World War One.

The initial reports about this were at first unfounded and were largely considered speculation, but the Imperial War Museum has since released a selection of war papers, which included young Private Sidney Lewis’ birth certificate — confirming his age. it was also found that Sidney was awarded the Victory Medal and the British War Medal. Now known as the youngest soldier during the Great War, Private Sidney Lewis of Kingston-on-Thames, Surrey, ran away to join the Army and subsequently enlisted in August 1915. His life changed dramatically just 10 months later when he suddenly got to experience life on the Western Front, fighting at the Somme. World War I took over Europe from 1914 to 1919 and was a bloody war that resulted in huge losses of life seeing an estimated 10 million military deaths and another 20 million wounded. The 100th anniversary commemorations will start on the 4th of August, next year, and a service at Westminster Abbey will be the main focus for the events, with a final candle to be extinguished at 11pm  – to mark the precise moment that Britain went to war with Germany. Some patriotic and enticing posters and passionate recruitment speeches encouraged thousands of men men to join the armed forces. Shockingly, Sidney wasn’t the only boy who lied about his age to enlist in the army and according to research, thousands of young soldiers lied so that they could participate in the First World War. Boys were keen to join up out of a sense of adventure and parents enduring grinding poverty did not mind having one less mouth to feed. Sidney’s brother-in-law Frank Bardell, 94, who lives in San Diego, said: “I’m told he more or less ran away to enlist.” How did such a young boy see over the trenches? How was he even allowed to enlist? Recruiting officers often turned a blind eye to underage recruits because of a the extreme shortage of soldiers — during 1914 the war minister, Field-Marshall Lord Kitchener declared that Britain needed another 500,000 men to help defeat Germany. Recruits had to be a minimum of just five feet three inches tall and Sidney Sidney was also apparently tall for his age and reached 6ft 2in by adulthood. The Telegraph reported that: Richard van Emden, author of Boy Soldiers of the Great War, who found the evidence that Sidney was awarded the medals, said the boy was deployed to France with the 106th Machine Gun Company and saw active service. Records at the National Archives dated January 10, 1920 show Sidney G Lewis was on the roll of individuals entitled to the Victory Medal. It listed his current rank as lance sergeant and previous rank as private. Sidney survived the war and, in later life joined the Surrey police. Source: Telegraph & Mirror & War History Online Do you know enough about your WWI military ancestors? War touches many people’s lives. Is your family’s military history waiting to be discovered? Is there a war hero in your family waiting to be remembered? Did any members of your family get awarded medals for their actions in war? Perhaps they did, but you just haven’t found out about it yet…Why not search the Forces War Records site and take a look at the wealth of records and historic documents the company holds. Let us help you start, or continue your family history quest…
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