These are the new faces of some of these heroic “boy soldiers” who fought for the country during the First World War. 

As a result of the patriotic passion that swept Britain during World War II, boys as young as thirteen served overseas. 

Many joined believing that war would end within a matter months. But it actually lasted 14 years. 

Some of the bloodiest war battles were fought by the fresh-faced young boys, like Ypres, Somme, and Gallipoli.  

More than 400,000 children signed up for ‘doing their duty’. A quarter million soldiers enlisted in battle, and many more died. 

Richard Van Emden’s new book Boy Soldiers of the Great War tells the inspiring stories of these soldiers.

While some boys in Van Emden’s book are among more than 800,000.00 Britons who died in conflict, many others lived through the conflict.  

Britain was the first major power not to have an army of conscription at the outset of the war in 1914. 

After it was clear that the British Army, although professional and very small in size, wasn’t large enough for their needs, many men joined together to support our country.

These new units were known as ‘Pals Battalions’ due to the fact the men saw themselves as belonging together because of their loyalty to the areas they came from and the men whom they worked with. 

Frank Lindley, who joined up at the age of just 14 to avenge the death of his brother. He survived the war

Private James Alex Thomas, who died aged 15

Here are some new faces from the brave ‘boy soldiers’ that fought in the First World War for their country. Left: Frank Lindley at 14 years of age, joined to revenge the death his brother. He survived war. Right: Private James Alex Thomas who, at age 15, died

These are the fresh faces of the heroic 'boy soldiers' who fought and died for their country in World War One

Here are these new faces of heroic “boy soldiers” who died fighting for their country during World War One.

Van Emden has discovered the tragedy of Private Aubrey Hudson; Britain’s youngest war casualty.

Private Hudson of the City of London Regiment served as a French soldier at the age of 14; he was then killed on the Western Front, July 28, 1916, at the age of 15 years, 28 days.

He also tells the heartbreaking story of Private James Thomas of the 17th King’s Regiment who died at the age of 15 and a month in Guillemont.

Private Thomas Bull (aged 16), was a member of the 8th Royal Welsh Fusiliers. He died 12 hours before the Gallipoli peninsula evacuations in January 1916. He was 16 years old. 

Private Sidney Lewis (106 Company, Machine Gun Corps), 13 years old, was the youngest soldier who served overseas. He saw action at Somme.

Due to his old age, his family didn’t believe the story that he was a soldier until his medals were recovered after his death in 1969.   

Second Lieutenant Reginald Battersby was the commander of his platoon (the 11th East Regiment) into battle at Somme. He was then shot in the leg from a German Machine Gun. The German machine gun then shot his leg. 

Private Frank Lindley, aged 14, enlisted to pay retribution for the death of his elder brother. 

Second Lieutenant Reginald Battersby (above) led his platoon, the 11th East Regiment, into battle at the Somme and was shot in the leg by a German machine gun. His leg was then amputated

Sixteen-year-old Private Thomas Bull, of the 8th Royal Welsh Fusiliers, lost his life 12 hours before the final evacuation of the Gallipoli Peninsula in January 1916. He was aged 16

Second Lieutenant Reginald Battersby (left), led his platoon of the 11th East Regiment into battle at Somme. A German machine gun shot him in the leg. The German machine gun then shot his leg. His leg was amputated. Private Thomas Bull (aged 16), was killed in action 12 hours before the Gallipoli peninsula evacuations of January 1916. He was sixteen years old.

He saw his battalion being cut down by the Somme on July 1, 1916, after he had climbed to the top of the Somme. As he sought shelter in a hole in the shell, he was hit in his leg with shrapnel. 

Private Walter Williams, age 17, served at the Somme.

Photos of him from 1916, when he was first called to service, and at the end show his dramatic age with scarlet lines that are etched in his skin.

To register as volunteers at recruitment offices, the boys falsified their ages upon the outbreak of World War II.

Although it became obvious that the children were both underage and not physically mature, the British Army accepted them. As casualties rose rapidly, so did the need for more soldiers on the ground.  

More than 130,000 soldiers were serving overseas as 1915’s top recruits.

They would likely have won the war if they had been taken out in mass because they were underage.

King George V visited Private Leonard Cooper of the South Staffordshire Regiment after he had been wounded in combat.

The youngest soldier to serve overseas was 13-year-old Private Sidney Lewis

Because of his age, his family later did not believe his story that he had served until his medals were found after his death in 1969. Above: Lewis with his son and wife in the 1950s

Private Sidney Lewis, 13, was the youngest soldier who served overseas. He is pictured right with Colin and his wife in 1950s coverage. Lewis, of 106 Company Machine Gun Corps saw action at Somme. His family did not believe him when he claimed he served up to the time his medals were discovered after his death in 1969.

The King asked Tommy, a baby-faced Tommy, if he was over 18 years old.Private Cooper answered, “19, your Majesty.”

With a twinkle in the eyes, King responded: “But this is your military age.”

Many young soldiers distinguished themselves during battle including Private Jack Pouchot (aged 15), who received the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

Private George Lewis from the Cheshire Regiment was awarded the same honor at age 16 for his service in helping wounded soldiers in No Man’s Land (1915).  

In August 1914 the City of London’s stockbrokers funded the creation of the first Pals Batallion. In just a few short days, more than 1,600 men were enlisted in the 10th Battalion of Royal Fusiliers. 

Boy Soldiers of the Great War, by Richard Van Emden

By Richard Van Emden, Boy Soldiers in the Great War

Lord Derby first used the term “battalionof pals”, which he created after forming enough men to forge the battalions of the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment within a few weeks.

Other cities and towns in Britain also came to be associated with the battalions, such as Cambridge, Cardiff and Manchester. 

Many Pals battalions saw little action during the Battle of the Somme, 1916. 

Many units were subject to heavy casualties. This meant that almost all the younger men in many communities died.  

Van Emden wrote in his introduction that, ‘Regardless of how passionately and deeply I feel about boy soldiers during the Great War’, the book had no hidden agenda.

This emotive story is not meant to be an attack on any political leaders of that time.

The connivance required to enlist the underage soldiers in combat was necessary at all levels. This included the boys’ parents as well as the men themselves.

“This book… contains the boys’ stories in their own words about what motivated them to enlist. And what inspired them to continue serving when war was all around.

Boy Soldiers of the Great War 2021 Hardback Edition, by Richard Van Emden, is published by Pen & Sword and costs £25.