Youngest Soldier in WWI

8 Youngest Soldiers in World War I (WWI)

When World War I began in 1914, it seemed like a situation the Triple Entente countries would curb overnight. Unfortunately, what followed was a four-year war that left millions of casualties and injuries in its wake. Millions of soldiers died within the first two years, increasing the demand for fresh recruits. Countries from the two antagonist groups had to recruit younger blood to their force to sustain the war and protect their interests.

By the end of the 4-year war, over 250,000 male teenagers had joined the forces. Most of the teenagers recruited to the forces were slightly over 18 years. However, below are eight “kids” who courageously fought in WWI before hitting 18 years of age.

8. Pope Howard Milton

Born: 1897
Nationality: Australian
Age when he Joined Forces: 17
Current Age: Deceased

Pope Howard Miltonphoto source:

Born in 1897 to Mrs. Annie Pope and Mr. George, Pope Howard Milton served in the Senior Cadets and at the 78 Battalion Citizen Forces when the First World War broke out. In 1917, he was assigned to the 7th Training Battalion, and later the 27th Battalion. A few weeks after joining the 27th battalion, Howard was wounded, compelling the forces to take him to the United Kingdom.

After recuperating, he returned to the 27th battalion, where he served in all major actions until the war ended in 1918. In September, 1918, Howard was promoted to a Lance Corporal.

Did You Know?

Howard Milton is one of the few World War I veterans who lived to the ripe old age of 100 years. He was among the four surviving war veterans to return to France in 1998 at the age of 101 with the 10th/27th Battalion to attend a commemorative event. The French Government awarded him the Legion d’Honneur in 1998 at the Australian National Memorial.

7. Abraham Bevistein

Born: 1898
Nationality: Poland
Age when he Joined Forces: 16
Current Age: Deceased

Abraham Bevisteinphoto source:

A passionate soldier, Abraham Bevistein lied about his real age to join the armed forces. He was just sixteen when he joined the 11th Battalion Middlesex Regiment.

In December 2015, a few months after joining the forces, Abraham was wounded, forcing him to stay out of combat for several months.  After recuperating, he got back to the trenches to fight. After a few weeks back in the trenches, Abraham was shell-shocked by a grenade explosion.

He was ordered back to the front by a medical officer, but he refused. He was arrested, tried by a martial court, and executed. Abraham Bevistein is among the 306 Commonwealth and British soldiers venerated on The Shot At Dawn Memorial after being executed for desertion and cowardice during the First World War.

Did You Know?

Although Abraham Bevistein joined the forces at will, he was assassinated for cowardice and desertion in 1916.

6. Cyril Jose

Born: 1899
Nationality: British
Age when he Joined Forces: 15
Current Age: Deceased

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Born in 1899 in Fulham, London, Cyril Jose enlisted in the British Army in 1914 at 15. Cyril faked his age to be enlisted to the Devonshire Regiment, where he fought the Somme Battle in 1916. In 1916, the superiors discovered Cyril Jose’s actual age, and sent him to a special camp until he became of age to fight.

After reaching the legal age to be in the trenches, Cyril Jose returned to France in 1918, where he fought in the Hundred Days of Offensive. After the war, he returned home a changed man who had a phobia of the authorities until he died in 1984.

Did You Know?

Cyril Jose wrote dozens of letters back home documenting the horrific experiences they encountered in the trenches while fighting the First World War.

5. St John Battersby

Born: 1900
Nationality: British
Age when he Joined Forces: 14
Current Age: Deceased

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Born in February 1900, St. John Battersby was only fourteen when he faked his age to join the forces. Young and energetic, Battersby was promoted to the position of Lance Corporal at the age of just 14. In March 1915, John was enlisted to the Manchester’s 14th Battalion at Whittington Barracks.

Soon after joining the 14th Manchester Battalion, Battersby applied for nomination to a commission. With solid support from his Grammar School’s Headmaster and Lord Mayor of Manchester, David McCabe, he was promoted to a commission in East Lancashire Regiment later that year.

1916, Battersby endured severe injuries as he fought on the first day of the Somme. After recuperating, he returned to the trenches in 1917, where he was struck by German shell’s shrapnel. The event required amputation of his left leg.

Did You Know?

Even after Battersby’s leg was amputated, Battersby didn’t quit his soldier job. Instead, he got a prosthetic leg, and resumed his duties serving under the Royal Engineers Transport Unit.

You can read about Youngest Soldiers in World War II.

4. John Condon

Born: 1900
Nationality: Irish
Age when he Joined Forces: 14
Current Age: Deceased

John Condonphoto source:

John Condon is the youngest World War I soldier to die in the war. He joined the army in 1913 after faking his actual age.

By the time he was formally enlisted, John was only 14 years of age, though he claimed to be 18. Two years after joining the army, Condon was killed in a 1915 Second Battle of Ypres gas attack.

Sadly, Condon’s body wasn’t recovered until ten years later. John never informed his family before joining the army; in fact, they came to know of his involvement in WWI when the British Army contacted them.

The British government honored Condon with three awards in 1922 – namely, the 1914-15 Star, the Victory Medal, and the British War Medal.

Did You Know?

John Condon’s grave may or may not contain his real remains. Based on the data collected from war diaries, his birth certificate, and census, John died at age 18.

3. Sidney Lewis

Born: 1903
Nationality: British
Age when he Joined Forces: 13
Current Age: Deceased

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Sidney Lewis was born to a Jewish family in 1903. In 1915, Lewis forged his age to be enlisted in the East Surrey Regiment, and in 1916, he fought in the Battle of Somme and the Battle of Delville Wood. After fighting in WWI for approximately two years, a comrade on leave informed Sidney Lewis’s mother of his whereabouts.

Lewis’s mother forced the War Officer to have her son released. When his real age was confirmed, Sidney was discharged.

Sidney Lewis was enlisted in the Austrian Arm of occupation in 1918. He also joined the Kingston Police after World War I.

Did You Know?

Lewis looked so mature at 13, with a height of 1.88 meters, that the recruiting officers couldn’t tell his actual age. He was bestowed with the British War Medal and the Victory Medal in 1918.

2. Reginald Garth

Born: 1902
Nationality: Australian
Age when he Joined Forces: 12
Current Age: Deceased

Reginald Garthphoto source:

Reginald Garth, a Perth-born boy, joined his father and brothers in the army in 1915. He was just 12 years old at the time. 

The recruiting soldiers discovered his age early enough to keep him from combat and crowned him a hero, creating uniforms specially suited for him. They enrolled him in the army, serving as a bugler. As per the military regulation, Garth was discharged at Colombo and transferred back to Australia.

Garth’s father and two brothers were killed in action in 1916. In 1917, his third brother was discharged from the army on compassion grounds.

Did You Know?

Reginald Garth didn’t actually serve as a soldier, but rather as a bulger. After the death of his father and brothers, he never sought army recruitment again.

1. Momčilo Gavrić

Born: 1906
Nationality: Serbian
Age when he Joined Forces: 8
Current Age: Deceased

Momčilo Gavrićphoto source:

Momčilo Gavrić was the youngest soldier in WW1 at age 8. He’s the youngest known soldier to ever participate in World War I and the youngest boy in Serbia to join the forces. The situations surrounding Gavrić’s decision to become a soldier at age eight were horrific and pitiful.

His decision to become a soldier was catapulted by the 1914 event where the Austro-Hungarian soldiers abducted and hanged his parents and siblings and set their house on fire. The only reason he survived was because he was away from his home at the time.

With no home or family, Momčilo Gavrić joined the 6th Artillery Division of the Royal Serbian Army in 1914.

Did You Know?

Momčilo became a corporal at the age of eight, following the unit commander’s confirmation of his commitment to the division after the Battle of Cer.

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