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Boy Soldiers of the Great War Paperback – 8 Nov 2012


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Frequently Bought Together

Boy Soldiers of the Great War + The Soldier's War: The Great War Through Veterans' Eyes + The Last Fighting Tommy: The Life of Harry Patch, Last Veteran of the Trenches, 1898-2009
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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Paperbacks; Revised edition (8 Nov 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408824728
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408824726
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 38,033 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Should this have been allowed to happen? Richard van Emden's fascinating and distressing account ... shows how difficult it is to provide a simple answer. (Sunday Times)

Engaging, well-written and balanced. (The Times)

Excellent and even-handed. (Daily Telegraph)

Book Description

The heartbreaking story of the boys, some as young as twelve, who fought and died in the trenches of the First World War, completely revised and updated in this new edition.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Maximus Petronius on 19 Jun 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An extremely well researched book about a very controversial issue that very people....even those who consider themselves to be Great War enthusiasts...know too much about. The issue is examined from the perspective of the boys themselves, the officers who commanded them, the War Office, the small group of MPs who fought so hard to get these young boys "out of the firing line" and the parents of the boys. This is a very moving...and often heart rending...book and a fitting tribute to all the young boys who gave up everything they had (including for so many of them their lives) to serve their King & Country in that terrible conflict. This "must read" book would be a very worthy addition to anyone's personal library of books about the Great War.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Stedders on 24 Nov 2012
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This was a very enjoyable read, well contextualized and able to hold my attention throughout. Sensitively written and containing a good balance of sources which were both informative and, in many cases, quite wonderfully evocative of the period. The book was much more than just an itemization or collection of personal stories. The social and political context within which these boys were deployed to the Western Front is examined thoughtfully. Their participation in Active Service Overseas is revealed in often harrowing detail. I think this book deserves a wide audience, not just because of the poignant nature of the subject but also because it would serve to inform many about an issue which has all too often been treated to a superficial and purely emotional response in the past. The problem of juveniles in the armed forces was, and remains to people with an interest in The Great War, a difficult and complex matter. Not only has the author treated us to many illuminating insights but has managed to do that in a clear and dispassionate way which never patronizes or demeans his subject. Lucid, informative and well written.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By mauveone on 7 Jun 2014
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I had no idea about the boy soldiers of the First World War. I had been at a local Art Exhibition, there was an exhibit showing the Statue that has been placed at the Memorial Gardens in Staffordshire, it showed a 16 year old blindfold by a rag, as he waited to be shot by men in his troop. All of them had been given 'strong drink' by the Captain and the Padre the evening before.

I wanted to find out more.... The book is comprehensive, with lots of stories about the boys and their families. Strangely, given the subject is not morbid. In parts it is distressing, bringing home the awfulness of War.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John Hopper VINE VOICE on 22 Nov 2014
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This is a fascinating and well-researched account of the very large number of boy soldiers who fought and in many cases died during the First World War. It focuses on those who were boys by the military standards of the time, which said that no one under the age of 19 should be fighting overseas (in this context it is worth remembering that the age of majority at this time and for over fifty years afterwards was, of course, 21). During the early years of the war, the rule was routinely breached, as boys as young as 13 (in the extreme case of George Maher) enlisted, though the majority of underage boys enlisting were 16-17. They were motivated by a mixture of feelings: patriotism; peer pressure or guilt at not doing their bit; the bravado of extreme youth; the desire for adventure and excitement; or a simple escapism from humdrum everyday life - many recruits from poor backgrounds had a much better diet, exercise and a sense of purpose in the army. So how were they able to get away with enlisting so young, when it must have been obvious in many cases that they were not the age they claimed to be? A combination of reasons - simply lying so they could fulfill one or more of the motivations above, especially with boys who were strong or tall; manpower shortages in the pre-conscription phase meaning that anyone willing to fight and not obviously decrepit was not turned away; combined with the perverse incentive caused by the bonus that recruiting sergeants and doctors conducting medical examinations received for every recruit admitted.Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By MH Dodd on 13 Sep 2014
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A truely horrific account of patriotic young boys, who were inspired to "do their bit" by the news coming from the Front, but were systematically abused by Government and Army alike, into fighting and dying for their country, regardless of how old they were.
Many had been bullied and abused into joining up by some Recruiting Sergeants accosting them in the street, who were being rewarded for each recruit they made, so, this seemed to be a very lucrative business to those who appeared to disregard pleas of being under-age by these recruits, many as young as fourteen, fifteen and sixteen, but some as young as twelve, to apparently make money, regardless of Regulations that stated soldiers had to be at least nineteen before being allowed to fight abroad.
These were despite pleas from some parents, many of whom had no idea that their sons had joined up, and had also showed proof of their under-age sons, but many were ignored, either by elements of Government with platitudes, or, Army hieracy, who either ignored the pleas, or took their time in withdrawing those under-age, to extent that some of them had been killed before they could be removed from "harms way", and brought home.
The excuse was that these boys had joined up giving fraudulent information, had been trained and kitted out at great expense to the Country, so it was their fault of being where they were...!!
There appeared to be little "Common Sense" by many in a desperation to get as many recruits as possible, to fill the places of those who had been killed or maimed for life.
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