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Britain`s Boy Soldiers


PhilB
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I noticed that David Lister's introductory credit-line referred to him as "Biographer of Abraham Beverstein." Does anyone know if he's published the results of his research anywhere?

Tom

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Harry Helm, pictured below, was 16 when he enlisted in the 1/4 Loyals in Sept 1914. He was KIA at Givenchy on this day in 1915 at the age of 17. I noticed in last night`s programme that 19 was given as the minimum age for fighting. I have studied his photo and asked myself "Could anyone have taken him for 19?"

Phil B

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Ok Ok ...HELP!!!!

I knew I would do it.... any PAL tape it? any chance of a copy .. happy to pay postage...

WAS OUT AND FORGOT....

John

Yes, I recorded it on DVD, and can run off copies for anyone who who missed the programme (I can also convert for NTSC for our Canadian & American cousins). Strictly at-cost, obviously!

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Guest Pete Wood
I noticed that David Lister's introductory credit-line referred to him as "Biographer of Abraham Beverstein." Does anyone know if he's published the results of his research anywhere?

Tom

Perhaps I'm wrong - and I didn't tape it, so I can't confirm this - but I thought I saw, on the programme, the front cover of the book.... Perhaps I imagined this, but it seemed to be called 'Aby Beverstein.'

I have done a google search and drawn a blank..... :(

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I've also googled but to no avail, Pete. I was interested to find out about a biography because I remember reading in "Shot at Dawn" that the authors suggested that although A. Beverstein served as A. Harris, the name Beverstein may itself be false, and that world-wide enquiries had failed to locate anyone with that surname.

Tom

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In one paper it said that this prog. was being done in the light of some new research, done by the CWGC, which showed that a lot more of Britains WW1 soldiers were underage than had been thought.

Can this be right? How would the CWGC know anyway, since we are told that the CWGC has only the details supplied by the army at the time. Was the CWGC involved, with the army, in some sort of cover-up? Far more likely to be shoddy journalism I would have thought.

Anyone know more?

I wondered about that as well, so I've just done a quick-and-dirty analysis of the CWGC-recorded ages for the men I'm identified for a Roll of Honour I'm working on for Bridlington in Yorkshire. Of 490 CWGC records, the age is noted for 328 of them, which includes the following between 1914 & 1918:

Age 16 = 1 (Merchant Navy)

Age 17 = 2 (1 Navy, one Army DoW 1918)

Age 18 = 11 (1 Navy, rest Army)

Age 19 = 36

Age 20 = 29

Age 21 = 21

Age 22 = 28

Age 23 = 13

Age 24 = 12

Age 25 = 21

Age 26 = 20

Age 27 = 26

Age 28 = 11

Age 29 = 30

Obviously this is a relatively small sample, but there is the immediate anomaly that 19 year-olds are the largest age group compared those immediately "older," while obviously if lads joined up at 17 or 18, and survived a couple of years, they'd be down as 19 or 20 at death.

Of the 18 year-olds, two were non-War deaths at "Home," but the remaining eight soldiers all died abroad, when they shouldn't have been there at all:

1915 = 2 KIA, 1 DoW, 1 Died

1916 = 3 KIA

1918 = 1 KIA

Of the 328 fatalities, then, 0.3% were 17 year-olds (a bit ropey, based on a single example) and 2.4% were 18 year-olds serving abroad, clearly contrary to Army regulations at the time. For every 100,000 soldiers killed serving abroad, that makes 30 of them 17 years-old (maybe), and 2,400 were 18 years-old.

I suspect that the "new research" is a simple analysis of the CWGC database, pulling out everyone recorded as being 18 years-old or less who are buried/commemorated abroad, which would give about 20,000 for the UK to begin with. A more detailed analysis of the 19-20 year-olds would determine how much they're porbably inflated by, but another 4% is probably about right , i.e. 4,000 per 100,000 = around 30,000. This gives us a very rough 50,000 fatalities, which seems in the same ballpark as the figures being mentioned in the programme.

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Guest Pete Wood

I'd still like to know how the TV producers based their figures and how they estimated that half had been casualties (CWGC couldn't give them figures for that, or could they??).......

I like chocolate, and so does my next door neighbour. But I can't say that the whole world likes it, based on such a small sample, can I....??

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I noticed that David Lister's introductory credit-line referred to him as "Biographer of Abraham Beverstein."  Does anyone know if he's published the results of his research anywhere?

Tom

Tom

David Lister is to have a biography of Abraham Beverstein published shortly.

Rosemary

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Guest Ian Bowbrick

A very interesting and thought provoking programme. The recollections of the veterans was of course the highlight of the programme. I too would like to know how the statistics on the number of under age men/boys were alleged to be serving in the line were collated.

One interesting point was made during the programme which alas was incorrect. It should be remembered that 3 soldiers aged 17 years were killed in the Falklands War in 1982. :(

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Guest Ian Bowbrick

Whilst on the subject - here is a cousin of my grandfather, who served on the Western Front aged 15 with the MGC under an assumed name.

post-8-1087303556.jpg

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A statistic for the Menin Gate:

15 years old: 8

16 years old: 51

17 years old: 275

This is for the Commonwealth not only British soldiers. I will research it in depth: dates, regiments etc and ... age because originally I had a list of twelve 15 years old. Seems that some mistakes occured during digitising the registers.Will take a lot of time as I like to compare it with other Memorials to the Missing like Tyne Cot, Ploegsteert. The 100.000 names on the Salient Memorials would give a better idea, I think ,about the dimension of this 'Boy Soldiers' contingent.

Jacky

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Ok Ok ...HELP!!!!

I knew I would do it.... any PAL tape it? any chance of a copy .. happy to pay postage...

WAS OUT AND FORGOT....

John

DOH!!!!

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Following from Jacky's post

I don't think the programme threw any more enlightenment on what we already knew although I was not aware of Markham's pressure.

In view of the patriotic fervour that existed at the time was it only Britain that allowed "youngsters" to join the colours?

Was there a strict weeding exercise in the other Empire Countries(White and non-White)?

I presume France/Germany did not have this problem due to conscription?

I suppose my basic point is.Was this programme biased against Britain and could it have been weighted with similar information from other participating Nations?

George

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I've also googled but to no avail, Pete.  I was interested to find out about a biography because I remember reading in "Shot at Dawn" that  the authors suggested that although A. Beverstein served as A. Harris, the name Beverstein may itself be false, and that world-wide enquiries had failed to locate anyone with that surname.

Tom

Certainly No "Beverstein" or Beverstien" show up in the1881/ 1901 Census on~line,

though the name "Beverstein" shows up in the USA Census & in German{Prussen & Braunschwich}Files back to 1600s on the US CLDS Genealogy site ,some who died as recently as 1990s,There are living Beversteins who appear on various Websites today[<Mywebsearch>],so the name is Extant,so where the enquirers made their "search" I dont know?

As "Abraham" was the only Son,no doubt the direct link to his family Name died with the death of his Parents,if his Sister had married?

The Thot Plickens! :blink:

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When a MAN was accepted as such, he gave a birthday which, for all purposes, once believed was cast in stone. No checks were made, and this partly because compulsory registration at birth had not been very long implemented [my wife knows when, but she is in the garden!]

Compulsory civil registration of births, marriages and deaths started on 1 July 1837. With regard to births, parents did not have to give information unless requested by the Registrar. According to http://www.1837online.com, it’s estimated that 6 to 10% of births were not registered before 1875.

From 1875 onwards there was more strict enforcement of registration due to the Births and Deaths Registration Act of 1874.

Kate

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I'd still like to know how the TV producers based their figures and how they estimated that half had been casualties (CWGC couldn't give them figures for that, or could they??).......

I like chocolate, and so does my next door neighbour. But I can't say that the whole world likes it, based on such a small sample, can I....??

Unfortunately, that's how most statistics are compiled. "Eight out of ten cats prefer it"? No, just eight of the ten cats we tested it with!

Jacky's figures for the menin Gate offer a useful comparison: 334 out of 54,896 is 0.6%, although aboviously you have to balance that against the fact that not all have their age recorded. The model I offered was very, very rough, but given access to full CWGC database, it wouldn't take a lot of work to produce some very basic minimum figures. At the very, very least you have everyone who's age is recorded as 18 or younger, and who died abroad.

The tricky part is when it comes to allowing for factors such as not every record having an age, or indeed which of the younger-but-within-the rules ages are accurate. We could argue that bereaved parents of under-age sons were more likely to supply an age, so it may be that the percentage of "without-age" records that were actually under-19 is a lot smaller than those of that age represent amongst the "with-age" records.

With the full database, it would be more easy to determine if it looks like the 19 or 20 year-olds are overly-inflated by a large number who were actually younger, but that's something that would have to be properly weighted against when any individual is likely to have enlisted in relation to when they died (e.g. by cross-referencing regiments and service numbers). One could built up quite a complex analysis routine, in fact.

I suspect the number of wounded is a simple extrapolation from the known ratio of wounded-to-dead overall. Likewise, the estimates of the total number of under-age soldiers serving will probably be a simply multiplication based on the number of dead compared to the estimate for the total serving.

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Following from Jacky's post

I don't think the programme threw any more enlightenment on what we already knew although I was not aware of Markham's pressure.

Perhaps, but we should always remember that the audience for most TV documentaries is the general public, with all their preconceptions and prejudices and ignorance, not enthusiasts of the subject of the programme. As Richard pointed out earlier, a lot of these current "shock revelation" programme actually contain very little that those who have taken even a passing interest in the subject already know. That said, C4's Secret History has been running for almost 15 years and has always been a cut above the rest, and has always specialised in either highlighting historical subjects most people are unaware of (e.g. WW1 POWs a couple of years ago), or else turning a spotlight on and shattering the myths about more well-known events, such as the Dambusters Raid (a good example where they managed to show that it wasn't successful in the way people thought it was, but that it was far more "productive" in a lot of other respects).

In view of the patriotic fervour that existed at the time was it only Britain that allowed "youngsters" to join the colours?

Was there a strict weeding exercise in the other Empire Countries(White and non-White)?

I presume France/Germany did not have this problem due to conscription?

I suppose my basic point  is.Was this programme biased against Britain and could it have been weighted with similar information from other participating Nations?

While it would be an interesting comparison, I don't think it's particularly relevent to the overall thrust of the programme, which was that the Army regulations at the time were being consistently flouted. It wasn't a case of people looking back from now with a 2004 view of the world and saying, "Oh, isn't it terrible - sending young boys to fight," because the official view at the time was that lads that age shouldn't be fighting.

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Soldier below gets wounded in March 1916 having only celebrated his sixteenth birthday. Note that he enlisted as a New Army volunteer in 1914 when he would have been just fourteen years of age.

This information is published in a local newspaper - what is done by the legal/military authorities? I don't know ... anybody else take a guess.

I posted on this some time ago, no-one could answer the primary question above.

Any takers now? Would he have been discharged and then rejoined?

PTE Charles Sinclair, 8th R.Innis. Fusiliers (Ulster Division), who is a son of the late Mr. Andrew Sinclair, Railway Street and a nephew of Mr. Charles Sinclair, James Street, has been wounded in an engagement in France. Pte Sinclair, who only celebrated his sixteenth birthday last Sunday, was an employee of the Braidwater Spinning Company. He joined the army in 1914 and went to the front with the Ulster Division last autumn.

Ballymena Observer March 24 1916

As for the programme - vets are always worth hearing. And the programme never made clear if the campaign ever succeeded in bringing any boys back from the front. At least I didn'r hear/see any examples.

Des

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It wasn't a case of people looking back from now with a 2004 view of the world and saying, "Oh, isn't it terrible - sending young boys to fight," because the official view at the time was that lads that age shouldn't be fighting.

That's what it all boils down to Nick, and there is also another point made in the prog - that an enlistment made on the strength of false details is invalid. (Doesn't make any difference if the false details actually suit your requirements!)

Tom

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It wasn't a case of people looking back from now with a 2004 view of the world and saying, "Oh, isn't it terrible - sending young boys to fight," because the official view at the time was that lads that age shouldn't be fighting.

That's what it all boils down to Nick, and there is also another point made in the prog - that an enlistment made on the strength of false details is invalid. (Doesn't make any difference if the false details actually suit your requirements!)

Tom

Exactly. We've always known that underage lads joined up, but what the programme highlighted was not only the extent to which this happened, but also the reluctance of the authorities to acknowledge that it was even happening at all, let alone bringing home those who shouldn't have gone in the first.

The only thing I think was lacking was the practice of some boys being removed from the war zone until such time as they were officially old enough to fight, rather than simply being discharged.

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It wasn't a case of people looking back from now with a 2004 view of the world and saying, "Oh, isn't it terrible - sending young boys to fight," because the official view at the time was that lads that age shouldn't be fighting.

That's what it all boils down to Nick, and there is also another point made in the prog - that an enlistment made on the strength of false details is invalid. (Doesn't make any difference if the false details actually suit your requirements!)

Tom

The one thing that wasn't broached by the program,especially considering the appearance of the ever dwindling few~the veterans; was if given time again,for all the Horrors & Filth,would they do it all again!They seemed almost to a man to give the impression that even @ 14,15,16,or 17 they had felt it was their duty to join up,though none of them had to,they wanted to be part of it,afraid that had they waited they would "Miss~Out";they wanted to go along with their elder peers & join in the "Great Adventure";rightly or wrongly they had made a decision,often going to great lengths to remain untraceable by kith & kin,until they decided otherwise,How many today seek such cameraderie & belonging,without ever finding it in a society of the excluded,dispossessed & lonely.I think you have to consider the expectations of a lad of 1914,what would his goals have been,hard,dirty, dangerous or menial work on/in/down a Farm,Forge,In Service,Factory,Mine,or a chance to travel where few could even imagine back then,and get paid for it,no bucket shop for a weekend in Ibeza.

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Hi all,

I missed the programme (I was on here last night! Silly m**), anyway

I digress,

Just thought I would let you know.

Some years ago 'Up North' we had a veteran (and for the life of me I can not remember his name, see his face!), he had enlisted underage and had been dragged back kicking by his mother, he had to wait for conscription before he could go back in and then after the war stayed in.

He hated his mum for a while as the army was what he wanted.

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