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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Boy Soldiers


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Just a quick couple of questions that I have been pondering over recently.

Firstly, did those men who enlisted under age & were later discovered & returned home qualify for thier medals?

Secondly, what about those who enlisted for "Boy Service", did they serve overseas & qualify for medals etc, or were they all kept at home until 19? Were any of those who enlisted under age transferred to "Boy Service" ( I am fairly sure that you enlist as boy from the age of 14, but am not an expert obviously)?

I am sure that these questions will be easily answered, & look forward to the replies.



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In the Army and RFC/RAF, one had to serve outside of the UK (or home nation) in order to qualify for any campaign medals. Boy sailors who enlisted into the RN but stayed at home qualified for the British War Medal -as did all other RN & RM - after 28 days.

I recall reading that the RA developed a scheme whereby 17 yr olds could enlist openly; the proviso being they would not be sent overseas until the age of 19.

Those who qualified for medals: I couldn't say categorically, but the CWGC lists underage fatalities - I assume their true age was discovered posthumously - and I am sure they received medals as any other. If they granted medals to deserters and others sent to prison, I am pretty certain they would grant them to boy soldiers thrown out for adding a few years to their age.


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A boy could enlist at 14. Became a man with big pay rise at 18. Could not be sent on active service before 19 UNLESS with consent of CO, and that consent given to drummers, buglers, trumpeters. This is a specific provisdion in Mobilisation Instructions 1914.

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Did I hear somewhere that men were sent to France to complete their training in advance of their nineteenth birthday so they were deployed more quickly when the time came? Or am I the victim of a cynical old wives tale?


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