Today, on Remembrance Sunday, we recall some of their extraordinary stories - uncovered by military historian Richard van Emden and never before reported.
In Richard's new book Boy Soldiers of the Great War, he tells how lads as young as 12 or 13 who were tall or well-built would try to fool recruiting sergeants.
He says the youngest person known to have served on the Western Front was a Lancashire boy of 13. His name was EDWARD BARNETT and he joined the 7th Manchester Regiment in May 1915. Within a week he was kicked out after they learned his real age. The very next day he re-enlisted in the 19th Manchester Regiment. Edward, the youngest of five siblings growing up in Salford, was of "good physical development" according to his enlistment papers. He completed his training undetected and was sent to France to join the 20th Manchester Regiment in December 1915. He lasted nearly four months on the Western Front before he was brought home.
Only days after the above article was published a gentleman contacted the paper to confirm that his father had served at the age of 12.
ONE of war’s most curious mysteries has been solved after nearly a hundred years thanks to an eagle-eyed Sunday People reader. Colin Lewis was enjoying our Remembrance Sunday feature last week about boy soldiers of the First World War when he suddenly realised… “That’s my Dad!” Our article mentioned a report that a child of 12 managed to join the British Army. The lad’s identity was never confirmed by the authorities. But today we can reveal the amazing truth. Colin’s father Sidney Lewis was 12 years and four months old when he enlisted. The well-built boy kept his secret during 10 months of training and was posted to the killing fields of the Western Front. Fresh-faced Sidney arrived in France in May or June 1916 to join the Machine Gun Corps.