Boy Soldiers

Discussion in 'World War 1' started by liverpool annie, Dec 29, 2008.

  1. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    Victor Silvester, a fourteen year old schoolboy, ran away from Ardingly College in 1914 to join the army. The recruiting officer accepted Victor's claim that he was nineteen and soon after his fifteenth birthday he was fighting on the Western Front. Victor's parents suspected he had joined the army and informed the authorities but it was not until he was wounded in 1917 that he was discovered and brought home.

    Victor Marlborough Silvester was born in Wembley, Middlesex on 25th February, 1900. The son of a vicar he was educated at Ardingly College.

    The First World War began in 1914. As he later wrote in his autobiography: "The mood of the country was one of almost hysterical patriotism, and no excuses were accepted for any man of military age who was not in uniform. Rude remarks were made about them in the streets. Sometimes they were given white feathers."

    Although he was only "fourteen and nine months" he ran away to join the British Army and by the age of fifteen he was fighting on the Western Front.

    Silvester took part in the Battle of Arras and in 1917 he was a member of a firing squad that shot four British soldiers sentenced to death for desertion and cowardice. He later wrote: "The victim was brought out from a shed and led struggling to a chair to which he was then bound and a white handkerchief placed over his heart as our target area. He was said to have fled in the face of the enemy. Mortified by the sight of the poor wretch tugging at his bonds, twelve of us, on the order raised our rifles unsteadily. Some of the men, unable to face the ordeal, had got themselves drunk overnight. They could not have aimed straight if they tried, and, contrary to popular belief, all twelve rifles were loaded. The condemned man had also been plied with whisky during the night, but I remained sober through fear."

    After the war Silvester went to Worcester College, Oxford. Later he studied music at Trinity College, London.

    Silvester was a talented dancer and in 1922 he won the first World Standard Ballroom Dancing Championship with Phyllis Clarke as his partner. Silvester was a founder member of the Ballroom Committee of the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing which codified the theory and practice of Ballroom Dance. In 1928 he published Modern Ballroom Dancing, which was an immediate bestseller.

    In 1935 Silvester formed his own Ballroom Orchestra. His first record, You're Dancing on My Heart, was a great success. After the Second World War Silvester presented the BBC Television show Dancing Club for over 17 years.

    Victor Marlborough Silvester died while on holiday in France on 14th August 1978.

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  2. themonsstar

    themonsstar New Member

    Dos anyone know which Battalion Victor was with, As I find it very hard to believe he took part in 4 SAD.
  3. spof

    spof New Member

    There is a TNA MIC for Victor M Silvester which has him as number 30342 and a Private in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

    It also lists him in the British Red Cross Society and Order of Saint John of Jerusalem. :confused:

    Do we have any numbering experts on the Argylls?
  4. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    While I was writing that post the thought occurred to me Roy that it was a little unusual ! :eek:

    In 1958 Victor Silvester wrote about his experiences in the First World War in his autobiography Dancing Is My Life ! I believe some parts of it was called ... how do you say ? ... " poetic license "

    I read about the "now discredited Victor Silvester reminiscence of firing squads at Etaple " but haven't been able to find out who what or where yet .... I'll keep looking !:)

    Annie :)
  5. [​IMG]

    Always a extra sad sight on a war cemetery:
    The grave of a 15 year old rifleman at Rifle House Cemetery, Ploegsteert Wood, Belgium.
  6. Gustave Chatain French boy soldier / war heroe


    Gustave Chatain, a 15 year old French boy soldier / war heroe, photographed in 1915, twice wounded, made 9 prisoners.
  7. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    Hi Pierre !

    You may have seen these already but here's stories of Gustave and another boy named Emile ............

    Another young hero was Emile Despres, a boy of fourteen, who died the death of a soldier. He did not have an opportunity of fighting like Gustave, but he showed himself to be quite as fearless and bold in the hour of peril. Armed Germans tried to break his courageous spirit. They threatened him with death and then offered to spare his life if he would act the part of a traitor. But Emile preferred to die with honour rather than live a life of shame.

  8. Well Annie, I knew the story roughly, but I really did enjoy your narrative addition here.
  9. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    About 23,000 Serbian boys found death during their flight out of Serbia in the terrible winter of 1915.
    To prevent falling in the hands of the German/Austrian and Bulgarian enemies the Serbian leaders ordered their armies and 30,000 civilian boys to leave the country.

    These boys, soldiers-to-be indeed, were between 12 and 18 years old and the majority of them could not stand the cold, the hunger and the hardship of the journey (and the enduring attacks by Albanese raiders).
    Fifteen thousand boys died in the Prokletije, the Cursed Mountains of Kosovo, Montenegro and Albania. Those who finally made it to the Adriatic Sea did not look human anymore.

    In Avalona the Italians had insufficient food and lodging for them. When ships arrived to bring the kids to the Greek island of Corfu there were only 9,000 boys left. Another 2,000 died during the 24 hours journey from Avalona to Corfu.

    Once on Corfu, a hundred boys died each day of lack of food. The survivors of this incomprehensible saga were sent to England and France.
  10. harribobs

    harribobs New Member

    and it wasn't just the allies that used boy soldiers

  11. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    What a young face - wonder how old he was ? ... where is he from Chris ?

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