67 Year Old Man Have Been The Oldest Soldier of the First World War

100 years after World War One and a story of the oldest soldier to fight in the war has emerged.

Thousands of young, middle aged and old sacrificed their lives for the war, which began in 1914. Now the story of one soldier who is thought to be the oldest soldier to fight in World War One has come to the fore. Henry Webber was 67 years old, much older than the Army regulations set out its maximum age. Henry was determined to help in the fight and lobbied his way through the army officials and authorities to enable him to join up.

Henry had a particular reason because his three sons were all serving in the war, and he was determined to join them. In an ironic ending to the story, all of Henry’s sons survived, but Henry died on the Western Front.

Henry’s tale has come to the fore as his great grandson, Paul Bellinger, who is now the same age as Henry when he joined the Army, saw an advert in a British newspaper for stories from the war.

Paul actually grew up in South Africa and only found out about Henry around 10 years ago when he discovered he had step-brothers and sisters in the UK.

It was during the uncovering of his new-found family that he found out about Henry, and went to visit his war grave in France.

Henry had been born in 1849 in Kent and had graduated from Pembroke College Oxford in 1870. He worked on the Stock Exchange for more than 40 years. He married his employer’s daughter in 1874.

Henry and his wife had a huge family, with four sons and five daughters and settled in Surrey. He remained an active member of the community and was a keen sportsman his entire life.

When war broke out in 1914 his sons were called up, and he tried time and time again to join the Army too. But he was turned down many times.

He continued to apply and was finally allowed to join in the summer of 1915. Henry took part in a short training camp in London and was deployed to France as a battalion transport officer, The Telegraph reports.

He joined the 7th South Lancashire battalion and was a true member of the unit. Henry helped in the build up to the Battle of the Somme and his battalion was part of the initial offensive. He remained fit and well throughout, but was killed in 1916.

On July 21st the 7th Lancs moved up to relieve a battalion in the front line near Marmetz Wood.
Henry Webber took supplies that night, as usual with the battalion transport. He left his men to unload the horses and went over to where the CO was talking to a group of officers.

However, at that moment, the area – a mile or so east of Albert – came under attack and a shell landed nearby. Webber was among 12 men – and three horses – which had been hit, suffering a head wound. He was taken to a dressing station, but never regained consciousness and died that night, just over a month after his 67th birthday.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE