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 (1914-1918) WWI Battles
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BWilson

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Child soldiers
Posted on: 5/14/2018 3:19:31 AM
 Some interesting bits here on World War I.

[Read More]
[Read More]

 On Child Soldiers.


Quote:
Child Soldiers of the Great War

Although most European armies conscripted men for military service at 20, in wartime they allowed older teenagers to volunteer, setting a minimum age for service at 17, 18, or 19, depending upon the country. As official documentation about individuals was sparse in those days, once the war began it was relatively easy for younger boys to lie about their age or produce false papers and enlist. Underage volunteers were found in all countries, and they were not rare. By one calculation an estimated 250,000 “Boy Soldiers” served in the British Army during the war, of whom perhaps a third or half perished, amounting to about a seventh or eighth of the army’s war dead. Boy soldiers were rather common in armies that experienced very heavy manpower losses, such as the Turkish, Russian, and Serbian, with the last two having a suprising number of girl soldiers as well. The service of underage soldiers is generally poorly documented.

Some examples from various armies:

Jean Corentin Carré (1900-1918): Hailing from a part of France under German occupation, which meant his correct age could not be checked, he enlisted in the 410e Regiment de Infanterie in early 1915. Commended several times for excellence as a soldier, in 1917 Carré volunteered for the air service. In March of 1918, while flying a Sopwith in the escadrille SO-229, he was shot down near Verdun, and died of his wounds in a military hospital on the 18th. Carré is generally regarded as the youngest “poilu,” the French equivalent of “Doughboy.”

John Condon (1896/1900-1915): He joined the 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment in 1913, and is often regarded as the youngest Allied soldier known to have been killed in action in the war. While there is some doubt as to how young Condon was when he was gassed in Flanders on May 24, 1915, whether 14 – as tradition has it – or the more likely 18, when he arrived at the front in 1914 he was certainly legally underage for military service.

Momčilo Gavrić (1906-1993): Eight years old in August of 1914 when his family was killed by Croatian troops during the first Austro-Hungarian invasion of Serbia, Gavrić attached himself to the 6th Artillery Regiment of the Serbian Drina Division. He spent most of the war with the regiment, took part in the great retreat through Albania, and ended the war on the Salonika front, by which time he had been promoted to sergeant. After the war Gavrić was sent to school in England for a time, was conscripted into the Yugoslav Army (despite his claim to have already done his bit) and engaged in business. During World War II he had difficulties with the German occupation authorities and also with the Communist regime post-war. Gavrić is believed to have been the youngest combatant on the Allied side in the war.

Mike Mansfield (1903-2001): In 1917, aged 14, he altered his birth certificate to join the U.S. Navy and served on Atlantic convoys until his real age was discovered and he was discharged. Mansfield later worked as a miner, became a professor of Far Eastern History, and entered politics as a Democrat, serving ten years as a Representative and 24 as a Senator.

Thomas Collier Marshall (1899-1925): Apparently with the aid of his father, he enlisted illegally as a field musician in the 5th (Territorial) Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment in 1913, when about 12½. Marshall served at the Front from early 1915 until discharged as underage in 1916.

James “Jim” Martin (1901-1915) : He lied about his age to enlist in the Australian 21st Battalion at age 14¼ years, he served three months in the trenches at Gallipoli and died of dysentery at 14¾. Martin was the youngest of the 20 known underage Australian soldiers who died in the war.

André Marcel Dieudonné (1899-1918): He lied about his age to enlist in the 26e bataillon de chasseurs in early 1915, and was killed during the Second Battle of the Marne.

Lazare Ponticelli (1897-2008): An Italian laborer living in France, he lied about his age on the outbreak of the war to join the Foreign Legion at 16. He served with other Italian volunteers in the Legione Garibaldina, then transferred to the Italian Army as a machine gunner in the 3º Reggimento Alpini (1915-1918), being wounded and gassed. After the war Ponticelli settled in France, and later took part in the Resistance (1942-1945). He held the French Croix de guerre, Médaille Interalliée, and Légion d'honneur, and the Italian Ordine di Vittorio Veneto. On his death at 110 on March 12, 2008, Ponticelli was the last French combat veteran, the last Foreign Legion veteran, and the next-to-last Italian combat veteran of the Great War.

Victor Marlborough Silvester (1900-1978): He enlisted in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders at 16, fought in the Battle of Arras, and served until discharged as underage in 1917. He later served as a British Army ambulance man on the Italian Front. Postwar Silvester became a noted figure in British ballroom dancing and television.

Martin Steinhardt (1900-1914): One of a number of underage Jewish volunteers in the German Army, he was a school boy from Mannheim. Big for his age, on the outbreak of the war he enlisted using false papers, was killed in action on October 18, 1914, and was awarded an Iron Cross.

Erich von Zelewski (1899-1972): A secondary school student, he enlisted at 15, using false papers and served through the war (wounded twice, gassed) rising to lieutenant, while receiving the Iron Cross 1st and 2nd Class. Postwar he falsely claimed to have been the youngest soldier in the Kaiser’s army. Changing his name to Erich von dem Bach Zelewski, and then to Erich von dem Bach, he became a notorious Nazi thug, responsible for the suppression of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and other atrocities, and died in prison for war crimes.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that navies commonly had many very young teenagers in service. Britain’s Royal Navy accepted boys for service at 13, and many boys died during the naval war; John Cornwell (1900-1916), who died of wounds incurred while serving in the cruiser HMS Chester at the Battle of Jutland, was the youngest recipient of the Victoria Cross in the war.

The actual number of child soldiers who served in the war will never be known.


Cheers,

BW
---------------
With occasional, fatigued glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
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E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 7826

Re: Child soldiers
Posted on: 5/14/2018 5:34:28 AM
Thanks for that Bill.

The enlistment of underage soldiers in the Canadian Corps caused quite a scandal in Canada.

About 20,000 underage soldiers were accepted.

The military initially honoured parental requests to return the underage son. But that stopped when a court in 1915 ruled that a legal pact between the military and the underage soldier existed.

Parliament discussed the issue in 1916 but there doesn't seem to be much after that.

By 1917 with enlistment dropping, these boys were needed. Rather than send them home and if the military had been informed that they were underage, they just kept them out of battle until they became of age.

There was some talk of sending them all back but after the losses at Vimy Ridge, that didn't happen.

Boys as young as 10 were found to have enlisted but I believe those kids were sent back.



Quote:
“It’s no job for a boy and I shouldn’t be here,


Taken from a letter written by underage Roy Armstrong who lied to get in. He wrote this to a friend who was considering enlisting.


Quote:
“Well, Mother, you will be pleased to hear at I can’t go to France until I am 19 years old and as I am under 18, they may send me back to Canada,”


Written in a letter to his mom on Nov. 24, 1916.
Rather than home, he is placed with a group of the very young 16 year olds. The military seems to have thought that he was 18 at the time but he was not.

Roy was reassigned to the 34th Boys' Battalion to train until he came of age. One year later, by March of 1917, the battalion was at 1,000 boys and renamed the Young Soldiers Battalion and Roy was still in it.

In January of 1917, the Canadian government ordered boys 16 1/2 and younger to be sent home. If older, the boy stayed in the Boys' Battalion until he came of age to fight.

Meanwhile, thousands of underage soldiers were already fighting and dying because they were already in it and their true age had not been discovered.

One day after the Battle of Vimy Ridge, the now 18 year old Roy Armstrong gets called up. The military likely thought that he was 19.


Quote:
“It certainly will be glory when I return. Mother, I know you will find me a much better boy than you found me before I left.”


He wrote that in May of 1917.

He died at Passchendaele in October


Only one story but I haven't decided whether his enlistment and death were scandalous because I am not sure when a boy was looked at as a man in that historical period.


Anyway, the story of Roy Armstrong was pieced together from his letters and is recounted here in a CBC article.

[Read More]


Lastly, the employment of underage soldiers was common in the British Imperial forces too, with over 250,000 taken in.


Cheers,

George





Phil Andrade
London, UK
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Re: Child soldiers
Posted on: 5/14/2018 2:45:44 PM
Here’s a slant on this that not many people think about, and it came as a revelation to me.

The mining industry in Britain employed about a million men just before the outbreak of war in 1914.

Many were retained as a reserved occupation and their priority status prevented them from being conscripted. But many thousands volunteered , and the gaps they left were filled by boys who lacked experience and were particularly vulnerable to the hazards of the coal face. As a result, the mortality rate among teenaged miners rose significantly : I daresay - but cannot prove - that more boys under 18 years of age died in Britain’s coal mines 1914-18, than died on the battlefield.

This might be a mistaken suggestion on my part, so apologies if I’ve misled, but it’s a feature worth considering. The hazardous occupations - mining, fishing, steel works, shipbuilding and others - might have been rendered more dangerous by dint of intensification of demand and the employment of youngsters who lacked the necessary skills and experience.

Edit : I fear I’ve made a significant mistake here...perhaps what I should have said is that the proportion of fatalities among boys under 18 who worked in the mines was greater than that of their counterparts in the army . I’ll try and check things out.

Regards, Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

brian grafton
Victoria, BC, Canada
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Re: Child soldiers
Posted on: 5/14/2018 4:05:17 PM
My eldest uncle was a boy soldier in the Canadian Army. He died on Nov 4, 1918 and is buried in the war graves section of the Valenciennes cemetery in northwest France. He was 17.

Frank enlisted, was accepted, and was then sent home at my grandfather's insistence. Within weeks, he had enlisted again, was accepted again, and was sent home again. The third time he enlisted, my grandfather let him go. He was unhappy at home and clearly saw this as a solution.
---------------
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BWilson

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Re: Child soldiers
Posted on: 5/15/2018 12:24:23 AM

Quote:
Erich von Zelewski (1899-1972): A secondary school student, he enlisted at 15, using false papers and served through the war (wounded twice, gassed) rising to lieutenant, while receiving the Iron Cross 1st and 2nd Class. Postwar he falsely claimed to have been the youngest soldier in the Kaiser’s army. Changing his name to Erich von dem Bach Zelewski, and then to Erich von dem Bach, he became a notorious Nazi thug, responsible for the suppression of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and other atrocities, and died in prison for war crimes.


 Actually, the final statement in this quote, like a Moroccan friend of mine used to say, "is a bullshit".

 v. d. Bach-Zelewski indeed died while imprisoned. However, the crimes he had been imprisoned for were not war crimes; they were politically motivated murders committed against opponents of Hitler's movement and regime in the 1930s. Note this is not a comment on his actions during the war. He was considered to be a war criminal but escaped trial at Nuremberg and served as a witness for the prosecution.

Cheers,

BW
---------------
With occasional, fatigued glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Phil Andrade
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Re: Child soldiers
Posted on: 5/15/2018 4:36:48 AM
Some data from CWGC regarding deaths of soldiers in the British Army, WW1. I must check to see whether this includes Dominion troops.

Deaths of soldiers aged 14 : 7
15: 87
16 : 628

This amounts to 722, and includes deaths from illness and accidents, as well as those killed in battle.

Including 17 year olds, the deaths of youngsters who died serving in the British army accounted for fewer than one third of one per cent of all fatalities , from all causes.

One if five, roughly, of all British coal miners killed at the workplace 1914-18 , were aged 14-17.

Statistics compiled in the UK reveal that 6,712 miners were killed in British coal mines during the war. In one colliery, Hylton in Durham, there were 54 deaths recorded, of whom 11 were aged 14 -17, conforming to that one if five ratio.

It’s a legitimate assumption that one fifth of the 6,712 coal mining fatalities were youngsters of seventeen years and under : about 1,350. It might be that the British army did more to keep its youngsters out of harm’s way.

The same cannot be said of the Royal Navy and, especially, the Merchant Navy.

Regards, Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
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Re: Child soldiers
Posted on: 5/15/2018 7:30:00 AM
Hello Phil,

Most of the Canadian literature claims that of the 20,000 child soldiers in the Canadian Corps, 2000 were killed. I believe that that number comes from Tim Cook's research.




Old Enough To Fight: Canada’s Boy Soldiers in the First World War by Dan Black and John Boileau

I have only read reviews of this book but the authors caution that we must not apply modern perceptions of the child soldier to the Edwardian period and up to the start of the Great War.

They claim that most of these "child soldiers" would have been perceived by adults and peers as young men who had already assumed the responsibilities of the adult. Many were already out of school and were working.

The authors also claim that Canada had a history of training boy soldiers and point to the cadet programmes that existed in every province but Saskatchewan as proof that the martial life was encouraged. Critics suggest that that is a stretch though young people fighting in militia prior to Confederation is part of our history.

Cheers,

George

Phil andrade
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Re: Child soldiers
Posted on: 5/15/2018 7:45:43 AM
George,

Does that claim of a decimated cohort of child soldiers stand up to scrutiny ?

I would be circumspect : although the story of Brian’s uncle will stand as a reproach to anyone who dismisses the claim out of hand.

So many claims about the losses of that war have been exposed as hyperbole : the death of a generation ; the six week life expectancy of the subaltern ; one quarter of all Scottish recruits killed etc.

The reality was horrific enough.

Editing : I’ve just checked the CWGC figure of 722 boy soldiers. These are indeed from the entire Empire, but only for sixteen years of age and under. So Brian’s uncle will not be included in that category. The figure of 2,000 Canadian child soldiers killed looks very suspect : unless, of course, the definition of “ child “ is given a much wider age remit. A great uncle of mine was killed at Neuve Chapelle in March 1915 : he was nineteen years old. There must have been many thousands who died at that age.

Regards , Phil

---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

Phil andrade
London, UK
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Re: Child soldiers
Posted on: 5/15/2018 8:47:08 AM
Here’s some more hard data, CWGC, army only, First World War deaths from all causes, extending well beyond the Armistice, even into 1921.

Deaths of soldiers aged 13 to 16 :

UK : 578
Canada : 112
Australia : 36
South Africa : 27
New Zealand : 1

Soldiers aged 17 :

UK : 2,543
Canada : 349
Australia : 101
South Africa : 74
New Zealand : 1

Soldiers aged 18 :

UK : 13,419
Canada : 1,170
Australia : 573
South Africa : 188
New Zealand. : 59

This strongly endorses my implication that Tim Cook’s figure of two thousand Canadian child soldiers being killed is unreliable ...although if the remit is extended to eighteen year olds it looks more plausible : but in those days, when children left school at fourteen or earlier , an eighteen year old was hardly a child.

Regards, Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
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E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 7826

Re: Child soldiers
Posted on: 5/15/2018 11:27:28 AM
Yes Phil, I was suspicious of Cook's claim when I read your figures though he is a researcher. However I am quoting from other sources that begin with, "according to Tim Cook of the Canadian War Museum", so there is every chance that an error, once printed, becomes printed again.

Besides I generally defer to you when it comes to casualty rates.

I wonder whether the 2000 is actually the total casualty rate rather than those killed?

As you have indicated in the chart, the number of underage Canadians killed reaches 1631 when the 18 year olds are counted.

I note that in Canada, the age of service was raised from 18 to 19 in 1915 I believe and so those under 19 year old deaths would be counted in the Canadian total.

We may not actually know the true number. Many of the underage

You may be interested in knowing that the orphaned British children who were sent to Canada to work on farms or in family businesses enlisted in great numbers. These kids were known as the Barnardo children and the Middlemore boys in the Maritimes. One study of the Middlemore boys indicates that they enlisted at a rate of over 50%.


I just came across an interview with the Black and Beaulieu, the authors of the book that I mentioned early, "Old Enough to Fight".

It is 24 minutes long and was conducted on Remembrance Day in 2013. They provide some interesting incites into the problem of underage soldiers in Canada. In fact, they say that it really wasn't a problem and that many Canadians at home were more likely to be concerned that the young lads would be exposed to alcohol or ladies of questionable character than they were about possible deaths in combat.

As well, they noted that even when the young fellows were found out and ordered sent to England to join the Young Boys' Battalion, the military found ways to drag its feet and indeed many of the underage soldiers continued in combat even though they were supposed to be taken out of the line.

[Read More]

Cheers,

George

brian grafton
Victoria, BC, Canada
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Re: Child soldiers
Posted on: 5/15/2018 9:13:34 PM
Thank you, folks, for such a thought-provoking discussion. The points you raise are surprising in many ways, and often simply serve to raise even more angles of exploration.


Quote:
I’ve just checked the CWGC figure of 722 boy soldiers. These are indeed from the entire Empire, but only for sixteen years of age and under. So Brian’s uncle will not be included in that category. The figure of 2,000 Canadian child soldiers killed looks very suspect : unless, of course, the definition of “ child “ is given a much wider age remit. A great uncle of mine was killed at Neuve Chapelle in March 1915 : he was nineteen years old. There must have been many thousands who died at that age.


Just for starters, while statistics tell us a great deal I'm not sure that death statistics tell us enough that is pertinent in itself.How many boy soldiers were there? We don't seem to know. Uncle Frank died at 17, which keeps him out of Phil's stats, but he's still dead, and he was still a child soldier. He could have survived the war entirely and still have been a child soldier. Death isn't the measure; age is.

How much time did Frank spend on active duty? I don't know. Theoretically he could have been on active service from 1915 on. My father, born in 1912, said one of his first memories was of riding on Frank's shoulders as he headed off to war, but I can't access Frank's date of enlistment, his service record or much other data about him without incurring expenses I can't accept. Was there an accepted life expectancy for a Private in the BEF in WW1? I don't know. Did adult soldiers have a better survival rate than child soldiers. I don't know. Could we trust any statistics that might throw light on such questions. I don't know.

Thanks for the stuff you're offering. I'll write a couple of other threads with questions on other issues you've raised.

Cheers
Brian G
---------------
"We have met the enemy, and he is us." Walt Kelly.

"The Best Things in Life Aren't Things" Bumper sticker.

brian grafton
Victoria, BC, Canada
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Posts: 2010

Re: Child soldiers
Posted on: 5/15/2018 11:46:22 PM
Both Phil and George raise different issues concerning age-appropriate values. I think it a significant point when discussing both child soldiers and other issues.

Quote:
The mining industry in Britain employed about a million men just before the outbreak of war in 1914.

Many were retained as a reserved occupation and their priority status prevented them from being conscripted. But many thousands volunteered , and the gaps they left were filled by boys who lacked experience and were particularly vulnerable to the hazards of the coal face. As a result, the mortality rate among teenaged miners rose significantly. ...

The hazardous occupations - mining, fishing, steel works, shipbuilding and others - might have been rendered more dangerous by dint of intensification of demand and the employment of youngsters who lacked the necessary skills and experience.

Two points strike me as worth some thought. First, are there statistics across the mining industry suggesting a correlation between youth in the mines and deaths in mines in general? I guess I'm asking whether "youngsters who lacked the necessary skills and experience" were simply killing themselves, or whether they were increasing fatalities for all miners. And secondly, were there any changes in mining practices that might have affected mine deaths or injuries? E.g., were safety regulations relaxed as war-related demand for coal grew?

On a similar topic, IIUC many skilled tradesmen during WW1 worried about what I think was called "dillution" — the degrading of a trade through the use of untrained workers (often, but not necessarily, women). Don't know, to be honest, whether this was a union argument to protect members from conscription or something else. But is this another side of the mining coin? Degradation of skill levels can lead to negative effects on the war effort, so use the unskilled as combat fodder and keep the skilled men doing what their training allows them to do?

Cheers
Brian G
---------------
"We have met the enemy, and he is us." Walt Kelly.

"The Best Things in Life Aren't Things" Bumper sticker.

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
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Re: Child soldiers
Posted on: 5/16/2018 8:22:52 AM
In parallel with factories, mills and workshops, Victorian legislators also responded to concern about working conditions in coal mines, especially the employment of women and children.

In 1842 a Report by a Royal Commission on the employment of women and children in mines caused widespread public dismay at the depths of human degradation that were revealed. Owners showed a critical lack of concern or responsibility for the welfare of their workers. It was common for children aged eight to be employed, but they were often younger. In mines in the east of Scotland girls as well as boys were put to work. In order to reinforce its message to MPs, the Commissioners' Report was graphically illustrated with images of women and children at their work.

Reform of the Mines
The Mines and Collieries Bill, which was supported by Anthony Ashley-Cooper, was hastily passed by Parliament in 1842. The Act prohibited all underground work for women and girls, and for boys under 10. Further legislation in 1850 addressed the frequency of accidents in mines. The Coal Mines Inspection Act introduced the appointment of inspectors of coal mines, setting out their powers and duties, and placed them under the supervision of the Home Office. The Coal Mines Regulation Act of 1860 improved safety rules and raised the age limit for boys from 10 to 12.

By 1870 over 1,000 lives were still being lost in mining accidents each year. In 1872 the Coal Mines Regulation Act introduced the requirement for pit managers to have state certification of their training. Miners were also given the right to appoint inspectors from among themselves. The Mines Regulation Act, passed in 1881, empowered the Home Secretary to hold inquiries into the causes of mine accidents. It remained clear, however, that there were many aspects of mining that required further intervention and regulation.

PS when I commence work in coal mining in 1948-the minimum age for entry into a coal mine was 16 yrs after preentry training at a Training Establishment elsewhere in England for two months.A man had to be 21 before he was allowed to work on a coalface again after 12 weeks of training-I was allowed on at 20 to cut coal for 5 old pence per yard -cutting a 100 yards--earning 41 shillings and ten old pence per diem om a 5 day week--was it dangerous--yes it was.

Regards

Jim


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