Minimum Age for War – Broadway’s Boy Soldier

The minimum age for which men were authorised for service with the colours during the First World War was 19 and no man was supposed to have been accepted unless he gave his age as 19 or over. Orders were given to the recruiting officers not to accept a recruit unless he had the physique of his declared age or they had had sight of a birth certificate.

However, if a recruit declared his age to be 19 or over but was actually under age it was not sufficient evidence for the War Office to discharge the recruit from the army. Soldiers who were below the age of 19 but had the physique of a man of 18 years and 6 months could be sent overseas. A soldier with the physique considered to be below that of 18 years and 6 months were retained for service and were trained at home until they reached the required standard. Soldiers under the age of 17 could be discharged provided that the application was made to his commanding officer whilst serving at home.

Broadway soldier, Frank Phillips was 17 years and 3 months old when he enlisted in Stratford-upon-Avon with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment at the beginning of December 1914. Frank trained on the Isle of Wight before he was posted with the 1st Battalion to the Western Front on 2nd May 1915 where he served until he was taken prisoner in May 1917. Frank was released from prison at the end of the war and he returned home to Broadway where he died, aged 96, in 1993.

Frank is one of the many soldiers whose biography has been published in ‘Broadway Remembers’ (ISBN 978-0-9929891-0-1) a not-for-profit publication raising money for the Poppy Appeal.

Debbie Williamson
August 2014

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