The youngest soldier to fight for the British during WWI was a schoolboy merely 12 years old!
This said 12-year-old lad lied about his age to get into the Army and fought on the Somme. His being the youngest combatant during the First World War has already been authenticated.
August, 1915 – Private Sidney Lewis signed up for the East Surreys at Kingston; he was only 12 when he did so but lied about that. He then was sent to Somme and fought on front for six weeks at 13.
August 1916, a year after he entered the service, he was sent home because his real age had been revealed; his mother had contacted the War office in London.
“I am directed to inform you that telegraphic instructions have been issued that he is to be at once withdrawn from the firing line and sent home for discharge.
“On his arrival in this country he will be discharged from the Army forwith,” a letter addressed to his mother sent on August 23 read.
He even appeared in a newsletter at that time but it is only now that his story has been substantiated. The Imperial War Museum (IWM) affirmed Private Lewis as the youngest soldier to ever fight in WWI after the organization examined family papers donated by Lewis’ only son last month.
The same papers showed that Lewis, a Machine Gun Corps member, received the Victory Medal and the British War Medal.
As Anthony Richards, head of IWM’s documents and sound, put it:
“This is certainly the youngest First World War soldier that we hold documents for in IWM’s archives.
“His story is quite phenomenal – not only did he enlist at the age of 12 and fight on the Somme at the age of 13, but he returned to service at the end of the First World War and worked in bomb disposal during the Second World War.
“He was obviously a very tenacious man, and undeterred by his early experiences.”