Jump to content
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

What percentage of the British Army were under 18?


GlenBanna
 Share

Recommended Posts

Has anyone ever seen a breakdown of the numbers in each age range that served in the British Army. What percentage of the British Army were under 18?

Glen

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Do you want to include or exclude those serving in Home postings, and include/exclude the many 'boys' such as drummer, bugler, trumpeter, tailor who were serving, and include/exclude those under age being paid as men because they lied about their age.

And what period are you talking about?

Before asking such a wide question you need to define your parameters more than a little.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would hazard a guess and say during the period that the great war was on (seeing as it's asked on the GWF), and taking the Army as a whole, as no mention of excluding members nor areas is made.

Grant

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes Grant. Thanks. I had assumed that as it was the Great War Forum it would be taken to mean 1914-18 and include all serving soldiers.

Glen

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have seen a figure of 250,000 mentioned, but that was extrapolated from a small and probably unrepresentative sample. If it is accurate, it would equate to about five per cent. I think this is way too high.

If every infantry drummer was under 18, that would imply around one and a half per cent.

I'm inclined to agree with Tom, except that I would say one per cent or less.

Of course, many who were enlisted under 18 (i.e. who lied about their age) would have turned 18 during their service. Some whose imposture was detected, and were discharged, early in the war, would have been conscripted later. The bandleader Victor Silvester was one of these.

Ron

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Has anyone ever seen a breakdown of the numbers in each age range that served in the British Army. What percentage of the British Army were under 18?

Glen

Richard Van Emden's "Boy Soldiers of the Great War" (currently £6 on Amazon) is an excellent source of info on this, I'd quote what he estimates but the books in my locker at work, he does however make it clear that it's hard to get a figure due to boys not needing to produce birth certs and lying about there age, stealing older Brothers birth certs or not having a birth cert as registration in the late 19th early 20th century wasn't compulsory.

It also covers a campaign to have Boy Soldiers released from service which ended with Boys under 17 1/2 I think being released and older Boys being held in camps behing the lines till they reach service age, he mentions cases of 17 year old Cpls with medals for bravery in these "Camps".

I'm doing this from memory so please forgive any inaccuracies.

Sam

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Setting aside patriotism and the desire to join in before any action was over, or indeed to see the world,

the only reason to lie about age 18 was financial: a 'boy' was under 18 years and received 8d per day, instead of a minimum of 1/- [12d] for a man.

And another thing: there is a sentimental hangup in the Britisch psyche about 'drummer boys'. Whilst it is true that many drummers enlisted as 'boys', at any one time there was every incentive for an infantry battalion to keep the boys in the Corps of Drums [and indeed the Band] to a minimum. There were many practical reasons why 'boys' were not the best item to have around on active service. A secondary duty of the Drums was ammunition supply, and that was heavy work. A secondary duty of the Band was stretcher bearing: again, man's work.

I once did a couple of analyses of the age of drummers, at Isandhlwana 1879 and Mons 1914 ..... which I cannot lay my hands on, but they were far from 50% of the Corps. So even 1% is probably an overestimate.

[For 'Drums' read 'Bugles' for LI and Rifles, of course].

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...