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leigh kitchen

"Drummer Boys" - Boys Serving in The British Army.

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?Drummer Boy? ? a favourite of Victorian sentimental story & illustration & a well known term but what does it really mean?

(I?m deliberately missing out ?Powder Monkeys? & the like of the Royal Navy at this stage of the thread).

Many armies have & still enlist boys ? the 14 years old French Drummer Boy who was the only survivor of an assault on the farm of Hougemont at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, the million boys of 17 years & under who fought with the Northern forces during the American Civil War, Enlisted by both sides, some were as young as 11, Drummer & Bugle Boys commonly being as young as 13.

When did the British military start using ?boys? as Drummers, officially or otherwise?

A reason to employ Drummer Boys was to convey orders by drum, drumbeat being more easily heard in battle than voice commands, & using a boy for this made best use of the men for fighting.

In medieval times boys were used as Drummers,& Trumpeters & as squires, travelling with the armies baggage columns. They were not usually kept away from the actual fighting.

In 1212, 12 years old Stephen of Cloyes is supposed to have led 30000 children from Marseilles on Crusade to the Holy Land, - they never returned. A similar Crusade was led by a German boy named Nicholas. Unsurprisingly there is doubt as to whether these Crusades actually took place.

At Agincourt in 1485 the French raided the British baggage train, massacring the camp followers, including the boys.

The British employed Drummer Boys during the American War of Independence.

In 1802 regulations referred to ?Lads & Boys? being enlisted as Privates at age 17 ? 19 years , minimum height 5? 4 ?.

It was specified that they were to be enlisted as soldiers & not be ?encouraged? to enlist with the expectation that they would be made Drummers or part of the Band., so it appears that there was recruiting of the under age & those ?still growing? as Drummers & Band Boys.prior to this instruction.

At the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 approximately 4000 boys served in the British army, another 2 battalions being held in reserve.

Often Boys were ?Sons of the Regiment?, following their fathers in service, sometimes orphans of soldiers.

Boys served in the British army during the Crimean War, they served during the Zulu Wars, a well known instance being at Isandwahla, where the Drummer Boys were allegedly hung up & disembowelled by the Zulus as means of preventing the souls of the dead from haunting their killers.

Well into the last century a battalion of infantry included two boys per company, ?Man Service? commencing at 18.

During WWI many under-age boys enlisted in the British army, often via the Recruiting Sergeants advice when they volunteered their real age to go around the corner & come back older ? to give a false age.

One source states that as many as 250000 underage boys served in the British forces during WWI, perhaps 125000 being killed or wounded..

The Canadian forces enlisted at least 6 servicemen under the age of 13 between 1936 ? 39.

There is a claim that during the defence of Carpiquet in Normandy in1944 some of the German defenders were only 10 years old, but perhaps there is a confusion here between the WSS Hitler Jugend Division & the the Hitler Jugend organisaton, although it is claimed that one German fatality was found from his personal documentation to have been only 14.

A Victorian postcard of a Drummer Boy of 3rd Battalion Scots Guards:

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By last century do you mean 1999?

I know a chap who enlisted at age 14 as a drummer/piper and rose to become pipe major.

He's not that old.

Lads aged 17 could be on active service and when I was a nipper you could enlist at age 16. My next door neighbor did that as he didn't want to do O levels and they had a spot for him in the RA..

That changed one day in March, 1971 (and I remember it chillingly well) when the PIRA murdered three Scottish lads, two of them brothers aged 17/18. One was found propped up with the beer glass still in his hand.

I've had people who were in position to know tell me that Martin McGunness, who was at the White House this week, had a hand in the murders.

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By last century do you mean 1999?

I know a chap who enlisted at age 14 as a drummer/piper and rose to become pipe major.

He's not that old.

Lads aged 17 could be on active service and when I was a nipper you could enlist at age 16. My next door neighbor did that as he didn't want to do O levels and they had a spot for him in the RA..

That changed one day in March, 1971 (and I remember it chillingly well) when the PIRA murdered three Scottish lads, two of them brothers aged 17/18. One was found propped up with the beer glass still in his hand.

I've had people who were in position to know tell me that Martin McGunness, who was at the White House this week, had a hand in the murders.

No - "Well into the last century a battalion of infantry included two boys per company, "Man Service" commencing at 18."

I was refering to Boys being on establishment of an infantry battalion rather than in Junior Soldiers / Leaders units or serving as young individuals within an infantry battalion.

From what I recall of my own enquiries into joining the "Juniors" at the beginning of the 1970's you could join at 14 & serve until 17 or 18. I may still have the recruiting leaflets that I was given for Junior Para Regt & Junior Coldstream - I chose not to join the Juniors (looked like too much "school work" & I wanted to be a soldier) but to wait until I was 17 & join a line infantry battalion as a "Young Soldier", on lower pay than the real grown ups & of course, as a result of the deaths on 3/9/71 of the three Fusiliers of RHF (John McCaig (the 17 years old), his 18 years old brother Joseph and 23 years old Dougald McCaughey), not allowed to go on "Semi Active Service" in N.I. until aged 18.

Later, members of my Section were ex-Juniors (at one time at least 4 of the 7 or 8), including one who was an ex - RSM of the Junior Leaders.

Depot The Queens Div at Bassingbourne was full of "Junior Mafia".

In Cyprus, 1978, Major J. General Quinn of the Irish army, Force Commander UNFICYP, inspected the Company asking our ages as he did so, & I heard him expressing his appreciation of infantry men of our youth, stating that the Irish army had difficulty getting recruits as young, although that surprised me & may be open to challenge (Kev?).

I did'nt mention the three RHF deaths earker as I was looking for a loyalist souvenr of the time, a handkerchief printed with a photograph of the three, I'll find it & post images.

Trust Graham to come up with the goods.......

Here's an Edwardian card of a Drummer of the Irish Guards

Edited by leigh kitchen

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Not exactly "Boy Soldiers" but worth a mention & a few photographs - In May 1917 during a reorganisation of training units in the British army, 14 Battalions were designated as "Young Soldier Battalions", which inducted & trained soldiers aged 18 years and one month.

After basic training they were posted in Company strength to "Graduated Battalions", of which 28 were formed and linked to the Young Soldier Battalions. These were used on Home Service until they completed recruit training.

Young Soldier Battalions were increased to 23, organised in six Reserve Brigades, Graduated Battalions were numbered from 201 & part of the eight Home Service Divisions

Eventually Young Soldier Battalions were increased to 25, Graduated Battalions to 46, porganised as six Reserve Brigades.

In October 1917, Young Soldier Battalions & Graduated Battalions were allocated to 23 Infantry Regiments, Battalions being numbered 51st and 52nd for Graduated & 53rd for the Young Soldier Battalion.

The Home Service Divisions were reduced to six, all of their Battalions except one a Graduated Battalion.

The Officer Training Corps (OTC) was formed in 1908, based at universities and public schools. Between August 1914 and March 1915 over 20000 temporary commissions were granted to former OTC members but by then it was necessary to take suitable soldiers from the ranks of the army & have train them as officers by OTCs. In 1916 officer training was changed with Officer Cadet units being formed, running 4 month courses to turn out "Temporay Gentlemen", commissioned officers. By the middle of 1916 there were around 12 Officer Cadet Battalions and by the middle of 1917 there were 23, 73000 officers being trained by OCBs during the war.

A photo of a "Young Soldier" of the 53rd (Young Soldier) Battalon of the Leicestershire Regiment:

Edited by leigh kitchen

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Another member of the 53rd (Young Soldier) Battalon of the Leicestershire Regiment, only an address is written on the back - 97 St Peters Rd.

The cap badge is that of the Leicestershire's regular battalions in b-metall or wartime economy all brass, as opposed to the TF battalion's version without the "un-earned" Battle Honour "Hindoostan".

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Very interesting guys and some good material, for the sake of repeating a section Leigh has included in his initial thread starter, I would like to quote from James W Bancrofts book The Zulu War, 1879 Rorke's Drift "The dead on the battlefield at Isandhlwana were treated with disgusting savagery. They were disembowelled, and their entrails scattered amongst the debris. Some men were decapitated and their heads placed in a gruesome ring. But one sight more than any other sickened the men who visited the battlefield. The Zulus had siezed five band-boys, and either tied them to wagons by their feet and slit their throats, or hung them on butchers hooks by their chins, sliced them up, then cut their privates off and put them in their mouths. Because of this incident boys were never again taken on active service by the British Army" the picture accompanying the piece, (sorry no scan available) by Charles Fripp showing the 24th Regiment's last stand at Isandhlwana clearly shows a Band-boy probably about 9-10 years of age in my opinion.

A couple of questions relating to active service; It would appear that children-boys were allowed on active service in Victorian times, would it therefore not require an act of parliment to stop it? or, as may have been the more probable case at the time, were the Band-boys akin to mascots? so would have come under Regimental jurisdication rather than any act of the British Government of the time? We tend to use the term boy as a descriptive for all male gender when at war, Bring our Boys home, Our Boys at the front etc. victorian and armys/navy before used children! the term boy covered their gender only. The attachments/pictures of Band-boys on this thread are cracking but would they have gone on active service? I don't know. ;)

More questions than answers I'm afraid.

:beer:

Best regards

Geoff

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In Cyprus, 1978, Major J. General Quinn of the Irish army, Force Commander UNFICYP, inspected the Company asking our ages as he did so, & I heard him expressing his appreciation of infantry men of our youth, stating that the Irish army had difficulty getting recruits as young, although that surprised me & may be open to challenge (Kev?).

Hallo Leigh :cheers:

I joined the Irish Army in 1976, first you had to go to the nearest Military barracks or F.C.A. Post (Part-Time Reserve),

there you had to fill in a Recruitment Form, if under 18 years of age you had to have the written consent from a parent.

After that you were told to go home and if there was a need you would receive a letter in the post.

In March 1976 I received a letter telling me to report to Castlebar Military Barracks to collect a Rail Travel Warrant to Custume Barracks in Athlone, I arrived there and was taken to the "New Block" in the room was 2 other lads, on that particular floor there was a platoon in training, after a week of hanging around we were told to go home as enough recruits had not applied.

In late April I was summoned back to Custume Barracks, Athlone, and about 36 guys turned up for training, mainly from the west of Ireland we became the 36th Recruit Platoon, midway through our 14 weeks training another recruit platoon came in to start their training.

Passing Out Parade Photo.

In August 1976, I went to the Border, at Finner Camp, Co. Donegal 1977 saw regular recruiting but in 1978 / 1979 / there was a big upsurge in civil jobs and some soldiers left the Army for the easy life in civvy street, so what Major J. General Quinn stated would be quite true.

In fact I saw a Camp Guard in Finner consist of 3 Corporals and a Sergeant as Guard Commander!! It was not uncommon to see on the twice daily parade company's represented by 4 or 5 guys the others either resting off patrol, on guard or on patrol. Duties were a 24 hour guard, a day resting off, then back on guard for a day, resting then on Border patrol for a solid week, with a week off.

Further stress was put upon the Border Battalions when men were sought to volunteer for the U.N.I.F.I.L. Mission in South Lebanon. At this stage the Irish Commitment to U.N.C.Y.P. was very small.

It must be remembered that traditionally Ireland's biggest export was its youth, many young men going to England, Scotland, U.S.A, Australia for work, a small percentage also joined the British Military.

Kevin in Deva. :beer:

P.S. with regards the disembowelling by the Zulu I heard / read this was to free the spirits of the dead, so as to prevent them haunting the spot where they lay, and was a tradition practised amongst themselves as well!!

Edited by Kev in Deva

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A lovely study of a Drum Major and Drummer Boy, is this case 3079 Drum Major Walter Casey and Drummer C. Head, both of the 2nd Bn, Northumberland Fusiliers taken 1903. Casey himself had enlisted as a boy in 1891 and eventually went onto become a/S.M.(later RSM) 1/7th Bn, N.F.(T.F.), taking the battalion to France in April 1915. He was later commissioned into the H.L.I. from whom he eventually retired.

Graham.

Leigh,

Anything familiar with this photo?

PS,

All Graduated and Young Soldier Battalions, which were alloted to infantry regiments were converted to 'Service' Battalions in February 1919 and sent to join the Army of the Rhine.

Edited by Graham Stewart

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Have I seen these two figures as seperate, coloured illustraton?

Nice to see the dogs tooth rims on the drum.

This is the cover pf a book published about 1883, "For The Benefit Of The Soldier's Home, Gibralter".

It contains stories by a Mrs J. Ballard, widow of General Ballard, CB, of the Royal Engineers.

The title story, claimed to be true, is about a Drummer Boy, who taken ill with disease is shipped home to the hospital in England, where he dies.

A pucky, honest, devout christian boy, naturally, son a f a widowed mother.

He is named in the story as Walter John Cameron, born at York in 1868 who enlisted in the Commisariat Corps, as the skirmish at Kassassn took place in Egypt in August 1882, he would have been about 14 years old at the time.

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"The Soldier's Wedding".

I have no idea whjat's supposed to be going on here, but here's another plucky little Drummer Boy, he's wearing the tunic of a Drummer of the Scots Guards, with a "Broderick" cap, properly named the "Forage Cap, Universal, or the "Forage Cap, New Pattern". The cap should rightly have a red & white chequered band rather than the one shown.

Copied from the German army cap, nicknamed after a minister of the time & reportedly very unpopular with the troops, it was introduced in 1902 & continued in some army units until 1907, the Royal Marines continuing its use after that.

The other soldier in the photo is wearing the uniform of the Grenadier Guards.

Walter & Frederick Melville seems to have specialised in plays about "Bad Women" - here are a few listed - just a few:

Title Date of first production Theatre Author

The worst woman in London- 0599714 October 23rd 1899 Standard Theatre, London Walter Melville

World of sin or When a woman is married- 0599892 November 5th 1900 Standard Theatre, London Walter Melville

In a woman's grip- 0599882 October 7th 1901 Standard Theatre, London Frederick Melville

That wretch of a woman- 0599890 November 4th 1901 Standard Theatre, London Walter Melville

Between two women- 0599868 October 27th 1902 Terriss's Theatre, Rotherhithe Frederick Melville

The female swindler- 0599870 October 12th 1903 Terriss's Theatre, Rotherhithe Walter Melville

Her forbidden marriage- 0599879 April 4th 1904 Terriss's Theatre, Rotherhithe Frederick Melville

A disgrace to her sex- 0599869 May 23rd 1904 Terriss's Theatre, Rotherhithe Walter Melville

The girl who lost her character- 0599872 October 10th 1904 Standard Theatre, London Walter Melville

The ugliest woman on earth- 0599891 November 14th 1904 Terriss's Theatre, Rotherhithe Frederick Melville

The girl who took the wrong turning- 0599873 October 1st 1906 Standard Theatre, London Walter Melville

The soldier's wedding- 0599889 October 8th 1906 Terriss's Theatre, Rotherhithe Walter Melville

The drunkard's story- 0599731 December 1906 Terriss's Theatre, Rotherhithe Walter Melville

Her road to ruin- 0599880 May 20th 1907 Terriss's Theatre

Edited by leigh kitchen

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These photo cards were produced show & presumably advertise a production of the play at the Terriss Theatre, Rotherhithe, there are others which I have'nt got, in the series.

The groom in this photo is also dressed as a Grenadier Guardsman.

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Boys of the The Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment), circa 1908 - 1920's (the cap was introduced in 1908, the cap badge was altered to a different design in the 20's).

No other insignia shown apart from buttons & shoulder titles - no Drummers arm badge, although the Drummer with the bugle is wearing cords which appear to be of a single colour - of "non-royal" line infantry green rather than the multi coloured version worn by "royal regiments" such as the Queen's.

Did this regiment wear blue cords?

The left hand boy wears a 1908 webbing belt, the one in the centre wears "canvas" fatigue trousers.

Photographer has a Shipley, Yorkshire address.l

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This group are from a Volunter or TF battalion of the Norfolk Regiment, whose cap badge they wear, circa 1908 - 1918.

The old soldier second from left has on his right sleeve by my reckoning 6 efficiency stars signifying 30 years efficient service.

They're not worn in the regulation "pyramid" placement but in a circle by the look of it, has he got another one there out of view?

The boy on the right is wearing the non-royal regiment's green cords on the bugle, he is wearing a badge on his right arm where you would expect to see a Drummer's drum insignia, but it's a bugle or "double bugle" as worn by Rifle & Light Infantry regiments, indicating that this battalion had its origins with a volunteer rifle unit.

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Don't forget the Boy Officers in the 19th century before commissions-by-purchase were abolished.

I've got John A. Hall's "Biographical Dictionary of British Officers Killed and Wounded, 1808-1814" in the Peninsular campaign--

Henry Gillman was an Ensign at the age of 1 year and 8 months.

Anthony Graves was an Ensign at 3

etc etc etc. :speechless::banger::speechless:

Most such "seniority" frauds (one wonders at the daily functioning of regiments permanently "blessed" with such decade-long absentees) "declined active service on account of youth" when called up for overseas duty at 4 or 7 :speechless:

... 15 being about what seems to have been the "norm," before these purchase cheats actually did the service for which their parents had been drawing their pay for years, although there are examples of 10 and 12 year olds leading troops into combat, which must have been rather alarming to the rank and file.

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Leigh,

Going back to the photo of the three lads with a Shipley photographers address, what you have there is formerly 245th Graduated Bn, Training Reserve who have been converted to 51st(Graduated)Bn, Queens Regt. They were based in Thoresby, Notts before moving to Sheffield, Yorks in January 1918.

Graham.

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Leigh,

This is how you're more likely to see Drum Major Casey as one of Raphael Tucks 'Oilettes' No.9328.

Quiz time;- Spot the artists error?

Graham.

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In your first post you mentioned "sons of the regiment" and here were have a good illustration of a Northumberland Fusilier family, a father, mother and two sons. The father is a Sergeant Major of an unkown regular battalion and Boer War veteran to boot. As we can see his two sons have also been enlisted into the regiment and would no doubt have followed fathers footsteps closely. Sadly I don't know the name of the family and haven't been able to pin down the Sgt Major, but given that the Great War was just around the corner one wonders what happend to the boys.

Graham.

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Leigh,

This is how you're more likely to see Drum Major Casey as one of Raphael Tucks 'Oilettes' No.9328.

Quiz time;- Spot the artists error?

Graham.

Ah yes, I thought I'd seen him as a "coloured" figure - I have that card as well. This card series was produced I think in 1908? He now has King Edward II's cypher on his sash instead of Queen Victorias as shown on the 1903 photo, different "wings" & brown sword belt & slings instead of white, with a white hackle / plume instead of red over white.

I've seen the Drummer Boy as a black & white illustration, quite crude, in ink or charcoal I think.

Thanks for the info re the Queen's photo, I did'nt know that - explains the "older" look to the lad on the right, 'tho the others look younger, they must all be at least 18.

Here are a couple of nice photos, I think, they show another Son of The Regiment, the Royal Irish Fusiliers this time - "Drum Major's Son Kelly":

Edited by leigh kitchen

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