Child Soldier (aged 14) from First World War Honored

A child soldier named John Condon joined the ranks of Britain’s army during the First World War, and now is being honored for his young sacrifice. Like many underage fighters in the two world wars, he used his slightly matured looks to pass as older so that he could register for the armed services. Having died at the age of fourteen, the deceased child soldier lies in one of the most frequented gravesites in Belgium.

While Condon was not unique in lying about his age, he was the youngest of the war’s deceased to have done so. He lost his life within sixty days of joining the fray, one of many casualties to the innovation of poisonous gases. The child soldier did not pass away on his own; nearly everyone in his battalion fell victim to the German assault which claimed his life. Many of them had joined for the glory and potential future wellbeing of Ireland, hoping that the Irish would see better days.

Their belief that they could rise to Ireland’s aid was a common one at the time. Many were members of the Home Rule party, and were fighting for purely political reasons. Like a good deal of the UK at the time, the child soldier and his Irish brethren expected the war to be a short one and could not have been prepared for what was to come. When Condon fell, the gases used in WWI were still relatively new and battles until that point had not drawn on for very long at all.

Condon was a sturdy young man for his age, and had a passion for the army. His surviving family members had often remembered him saying that he was going to enlist someday, though at that time the child soldier was merely a boy at play. Because he was so young that he had to lie about his age to enlist, his own family did not even know at the time of his death that he had been at war, the Irish Post reports.

The child soldier John Condon was unfortunately never memorialized at the time of his passing, as the rift between Ireland and England at the time made the Irish government uneasy about honoring one of their youth for aiding a conflict which they believed to be an issue for the British and not the Irish. The oversight of Condon’s death has now been reconciled, with a statue of the child soldier paying him honor in Waterford.

Ian Harvey

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