The Dark Side of War – Death and Horror: WWI boy soldiers

Posted: October 12, 2008 in Military, Research, Soldiers, War
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Do not expect me to have and keep a blog about military related facts, fiction, humour and erotica, without showing the dark side of war. In fact, I would hate it if anyone thought there was anything glorious about actual war. There isn’t. There is only horror and pain and fear and no winners. Not ultimately. There might be moments of courage, bravery, compassion, selflessness and true human spirit, but in the end of it all, war and battle is killing and destroying. It is fear and it is terror.

Let us not forget this. Let us not forget the dead.

Now and then I will write a post about war. Real war. A matter I take immensely serious, especially knowing those who lost comrades, friends & family. However, I will keep all the images that are of Death and Horror of and on the battlefields as a very small thumbnail (since the cut function does not seem to work).

All armies in World War I used underage soldiers. Recruiting Officers used to close their eyes when boys – clearly under the required age of 18 years – wanted to join. Boy soldiers, the youngest recording dead being 12, were sent to the trenches in Belgium, France, and Russia, where they fought, suffered the horrors and died with the adult soldiers.

WWI dead boy-soldier

Siegfried Sassoon wrote: “As I stepped over one of the Germans an impulse made me lift him up from the miserable ditch. Propped against the bank, his blond face was undisfigured, except by the mud which I wiped from his eyes and mouth with my coat sleeve. He didn`t look to be more than eighteen. Hoisting him a little higher, I thought what a gentle face he had.” (in Memoirs from an Infantry Officer)

Dead German boy-soldier

Sometimes whole schoolclasses enlisted together – and died together, as can be read in Erich Maria Remarque’s famous Great War-novel All Quiet on the Western Front.

Dead English boy-soldier

Dead French boy-soldiers

If any ask us why we died
Tell them, Because our fathers lied

(Rudyard Kipling)

Child Soldiers today

After the Great War there have been many attempts to put this to an end, and finally, on 2nd September 1990, the ‘United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child’ came into force.

Article 38 states:

1. States Parties undertake to respect and to ensure respect for rules of international humanitarian law applicable to them in armed conflicts which are relevant to the child.

2. States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that persons who have not attained the age of fifteen years do not take a direct part in hostilities.

3. States Parties shall refrain from recruiting any person who has not attained the age of fifteen years into their armed forces. In recruiting among those persons who have attained the age of fifteen years but who have not attained the age of eighteen years, States Parties shall endeavour to give priority to those who are oldest.

4. In accordance with their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect the civilian population in armed conflicts, States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure protection and care of children who are affected by an armed conflict.

All photos © copyright their respective owners, without permission.

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