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KRRC 1914-15- CULL OF UNDER-AGE SOLDIERS?


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i feel sure there are old riflemen out there who may know the answer to this little conundrum. I have been researching the history of Wanstead (East London) war dead. And, of course, like all areas, there are casualties under age- such as William Lakeman, killed serving in London Irish on Christmas Eve 1915- aged 17- ,the subject of another thread.

But I have 2 under age that are both booted out of KRRC as not being likerly to make an efficeint solder-and the records quoting the KRs . Both were subsequently killed serving in other regiments- namely David Rivolta, killed aged 18 on 1st July 1916 with 1 Hants. and Percy Rudolf Smith (served as Paul Randolph Smith) killed in May 1915 with 1 LRB.. Smith has a good entry on the Old Bancroftian site on Tinternet-the school has put in a fair amount of good work to record its war dead.

Rivolta lasted some 46 days in the army in total and was discharged from depot in Winchester. Smith enlisted in November 1914 and was turned out in February 1915. They are the only examples I have of boy soldiers actually been kicked out of the army. Service records indicate that both were, by todays standards, bantams-5'0 and 5'1. Rivolta, I believe, failed the minimum chest expansion.

That both were removed from KRRC suggests some conscious policy that may have been ignored in other units. I note also that there are links between the Boys Briagade and KRRC-though as yet I have not researched down the Boys Brigade connection locally.

Would any KRRC man know what went on?

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Thanks- Of course, parents are a consideration. But it seems unlikely in this matter- Smith is killed only some 3 months after being booted out of KRRC- still under age, so it seems unlikely that his parents would have pulled him out of one regiment for being underage,then allowed him into another-As it is, the entry for Smith on Bancroftian Network shows that he wrote letters home.

As it is, on the larger theme of underage enlistment in 1914-1915 , then the matter of how many parents pulled their children back out of the army seems an almost total blank. Given the "white feather" brigade, it seems unlikely that either parents or those pulled out for being underage would want that much publicity.

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Apart from the suggestion above, i.e. the parent's intervention which was not always successful (see letter in George Coppard's memoir "that as his age on attestation is 19 years and 7 months then that is his official age and it is regretted your request for his discharge cannot be acceded to.") He had in fact added three years to his age when enlisting in 1914. Where a soldier was discharged for making a false statement as to age on enlistment the usual reason for discharge was para 392 (vi)(a) KR. Unlikely to become an efficient soldier seems to have a much broader definition often associated with physical or mental capacity or 'two left feet'. However it was almost certainly used to weed out 'boy soldiers' as their immaturity would be reflected in discipline and physical effort.

After the initial, overhwelming rush to recruitment those under age (and unfit) were weeded out of active service units, later in the war some were put to work as messengers etc., in the Base Depots until they became of age.

Richard van Emden in 'Boy Soldiers of the Great War' which is essential reading on the subject describes this period (1915 post Neuve Chapelle) as 'The Beginning of a Campaign' (to bring them home), or in early 1915 the issue 'began to force its way on the political agenda'. Emden cites one example from this period who was serving in the KRRC but I doubt there was a 'cull' as there are specific examples from other regiments and the Army's reaction, in short the intervention of parents and politicians was considered a 'nuisance' by senior officers.

The issue has been discussed a number of times and a forum search can give more examples.

Ken

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My G Grandfather William Leonard Saunders enlisted 30 Nov 1914 at the age of 15 years, 4 months and was in the 1st Bn KRRC before being discharged due to wounds 28 Nov 1916.

My grandmother has told me that he was only a slight man and photos I have of him during his short service appear to bear this out, so it would seam that the KRRC may not have had a stricter policy than any other regiment.

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  • 2 weeks later...

This was an ongoing thing, the 8th Rifle Brigade's diary states on 9/9/15 that inspection of battalion revealed 10 under the age of 18.

on 27/9/15 authority was received to send back to England the underage soldiers under the age of 17.

Andy

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From the 1/7th Warwickshire Regiment diary dated 16th September 1915:

"Three Privates were sent to Base - immature youths".

Sue

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post-7376-0-69529600-1426338782_thumb.jp

post-7376-0-25747100-1426338811_thumb.jp

These may be of interest - from Circular Instructions - June 1915

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Similar experiences in the RND at Gallipoli

from memory

  • The CO of the Nelson Battalion abruptly stopped writing his daily diary at this time, complaining that it was impossible to go on with so many babes in the latest draft of reinforcements. He also put in to HQ for special kit, all of which had a nursery theme. Fortunatley for him this was received at HQ by someone with a sense of humour, and no further action was taken.

  • The diary of an officer in the Hood Battalion records at this time his being sent from the peninsula to Mudros in charge of a party of under-age 'reinforcements' who were to be returned to the UK

As hinted at by Ken, and the above post by Graham, once this problem reached the political arena

(I feel certain that somewhere or other I have seen a ref to questions in the House)

then the top-brass had to do something about it.

regards

Michael

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I note also that there are links between the Boys Briagade and KRRC-though as yet I have not researched down the Boys Brigade connection locally.

Would any KRRC man know what went on?

The KRRC's main connection with youth organisations was with the Church Lads Brigade. When the CLB cadets were formally recognised as such by the War Office, they were eventually affiliated to the KRRC, while of course, 16/KRRC was established originally as a CLB 'Pals' battalion.

I have a vague recollection of turning up some tenuous connection between the Drill Hall in Sun Street, used by the KRRC 1st Cadet Battalion and the Boys Brigade, but I cannot lay my hands on the reference in my files :-(

Both the KRRC and the RB were greatly involved in Boys Clubs in the metropolitan inner cities, particularly the East End.

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  • 5 months later...
  • 1 year later...
On 18/02/2015 at 14:45, voltaire60 said:

Smith enlisted in November 1914 and was turned out in February 1915. They are the only examples I have of boy soldiers actually been kicked out of the army. Service records indicate that both were, by todays standards, bantams-5'0 and 5'1.

 

The height restrictions imposed early on partly to control the K1 rush were relaxed slightly in November 1914.  My own GF was probably around 5'2" to 5'4" in his prime, and was only able to enlist in early Nov 1914.

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Most of the 300 odd underage soldiers I have come across in the Rifle Brigade are discharged for having made a mis-statement regarding their age, rather than not likely to become an efficient soldier. Some of their records do have the letters from families.The young gentleman this record is from contains letters from his sisters and his brother who was a serving soldier.

 

Andy

MIUK1914A_086798-00127.jpg

Edited by stiletto_33853
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1 hour ago, stiletto_33853 said:

The young gentleman this record is from contains letters from his sisters and his brother who was a serving soldier.

 

Andy

 

 

Could you post the young gentleman's details so we may read the correspondence.  Thanks

 

Ken

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Ken,

 

He is Michael Sheehan, S/13038, Rifle Brigade of Grangetown.

 

There are several of these records that contain the letters. Attached is the letter from his brother.

 

Andy

MIUK1914A_086798-00132.jpg

Edited by stiletto_33853
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The official, War Office and senior command, policy was clear:

 

Do not recruit under-age.

If any under-age is recruited, discharge him whenever identified.

 

Actual practice seems to have varied, not so much from unit to unit as between different personalities.

There are accounts of some recruiting sergeants telling boys, "The age you have given is too young, Come back tomorrow, and you'll be a bit older, won't you?", nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Other recruiters would be scrupulously straightforward. Likewise with senior NCOs, some turning a blind to boys in the unit, provided they behaved themselves, and others who followed official policy.

 

If parents wrote to reclaim boys, they had to be returned, never mind the administrative headache, although if the boy was already in France he might just be sent back to base pending further decision.

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After much dithering, the War Office issued an instruction on 17th June shortly followed by public announcements that soldiers 17 and under would be discharged and those over 17 but under 19 would be out into the Reserve. The instruction did not apply to Officers. 

 

This is covered in detail in Boy Soldiers of the Great War by Richard van Emden.

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