Britain’s young soldiers of World War One (5/14)

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The average age of the British soldier who fought in world war one was around 28 years old, with a conscription age between 18 and 41 (later raised to 51). However, it is believed that as many as 250,000 boys under the age of 18 served in the British Army during World War One, and the youngest of these is believed to have been a boy named Sidney Lewis (pictured) who enlisted in the East Surrey Regiment in August 1915 at the age of 12. By the age of 13 he was fighting in the Battle of the Somme, one of the deadliest battles in human history, with one million killed or wounded.

Lewis was eventually sent home after his worried mother sent his birth certificate to the War Office and demanded they return her son, which they did. He was awarded the Victory Medal and the British War Medal. By 1918 he had re-enlisted, serving with the army of occupation in Austria. He later also served in World War II as bomb disposal. Lewis spent much of his life, including between both world wars, serving as a police constable, before later running the George Hotel, in Frant, East Sussex.

Sidney Lewis died in 1969, at the age of 66.

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