Britian’s Youngest Soldier From WWI, 12 years old, is Awarded 2 Medals


In 1915, Sidney Lewis enlisted in the Army. He would be known as the youngest soldier during the Great War. Sidney was only 12 years old.

The young soldier’s tale was published in the newspapers, however the reports were considered speculation and they were not corroborated by Army Records. Until now.

The Imperial War Museum was shown a bundle of family papers which included the young soldier’s birth certificate. This new evidence included a surprising bit of information; Sidney was awarded the Victory Medal and the British War Medal.

Sidney wasn’t the only boy who lied about his age to enlist in the army. It is believed that he was one of thousands of young soldiers who lied so that they could participate in the First World War.

Richard van Emden wrote the novel called ‘Boy Soldiers of the Great War’ and he was credited for finding the evidence of Sidney’s accomplishments and medals. vn Emden tells the Telegraph that the young soldier was deployed to France and he was a member if the 106th Machine Gun Company and he participated in battle.

The records at the National Archives shows that Sidney G. Lewis was one of the individuals who would receive the Victory Medal on January 20, 1920. The record also shows that his rank was private and then was elevated to lance sergeant.

van Emden stated that some of the young soldiers who had secretly enlisted were drawn in by the chance of adventure, while others felt that the war couldn’t be worse than the conditions in the factories at home.

Young Soldiers
Young Soldiers

He told a newspaper: “Some parents were happy to have one less mouth to feed and some explained to their sons how to puff up their chests to meet the qualifying standard.”

Sidney’s brother-in-law, Frank Bardell, aged 94, said he didn’t understand why Sidney’s mother had let her son go into the Army.

The young soldier engaged in six months of military training before he crossed the Channel.

Bardwell said: “I’m told he more or less ran away from home to enlist.”

Sidney’s relatives describe him as someone who continued to defy convention as he grew up. When his son was asked to describe his father, he said proudly his father was a “forthright fellow” who “stood against authority.”

A child soldier of WWI
A child soldier of WWI

Evette Champion

Evette Champion is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE