Although the fighting age minimum was 19 (you could enlist at 18) there were a large number of “boy soldiers”. Many were the same age or even younger than some of the students I teach now.
‘Boy Soldiers’ fighting in World War One remained a controversial issue throughout the war. By the time World War One had ended many thousands of youths too young to legally enlist had been either killed or wounded.
When World War One was declared in August 1914, a huge number of men wanted to enlist. Their enthusiasm was shared by many aged 15 to 18. The war was sold to the general public as a war that would be over by Christmas 1914. Therefore recruitment offices had to handle tens of thousands of men and youths who wanted to show their patriotic fervour. Few, if any, of the recruitment officers had time and probably the inclination to check the age of the volunteers. The rule of thumb seemed to be perfectly simple: if the volunteer wanted to fight for his country and was physically fit enough to do so, why stop him? In this way it is thought that as many of 250,000 ‘Boy Soldiers’ were recruited and fought in World War One.