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leigh kitchen

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

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Is there anywhere where I could read "Mercie Sunshine's Chats About Soldiers?"

Also, I'm fairly sure that Lt. Col. Mitchell, mentioned earlier as a possible boy soldier, was 15 when the Home Guard was started up in the summer of 1940. I checked and he was born in 1925...

~TS

I'll dig it out, as I remmeber it may be set in partcularly large type & does'nt have many pages, it may be easy to scan it for a thread.

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I'll dig it out, as I remmeber it may be set in partcularly large type & does'nt have many pages, it may be easy to scan it for a thread.

That'd be greatly appreciated, Leigh!

Also, I found Mad Mitch's New York Times obituary (since may of the British obits were written by his Tory allies, I'd trust this one more than some others). It says that he enlisted in the Home Guard at 17, and was the youngest member at the time.

Going back to a much earlier post in this thread, how late was it common to see boy-commissioned officers leading troops in to combat? I'm curious how that worked out, as some earlier stated that 12- and 13- year old boys led men into battle! As the average age of the British soldier before the end of the "life" enlistment was somewhat older than that (somewhere in the 30's, I beleive) its a very alarming though!

~TS

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I think they are reversed & intertwined "R"s, worn by Recruiters.

I have a colour card somewhere of a Recruiter in Blues wearing the badge - I was wondering if they were worn by retired personnel in lieu of the crossed Union flags over chevrons?

There's always confusion over the recruiters badge as you and I know it(crossed union flags over chevrons) as prior to 1915 it was worn by "all" Colour Sergeants within the infantry in full dress. In SD dress the Clr Sgt wore a large crown over three chevrons, again not to be confused with the post 1915 rank of CQMS.

I didn't know of a specific badge for recruiters and wonder if you could get a good blow up of it.

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Here we go:

"R" reversed & intertwined?

"GR"

Looks almost as if there's a badge superimposed, if I did'nt know better I'd say that it's the KDG badge on one of them, but nothing that looks like the Somerset Light Infantry's bugle.

Edited by leigh kitchen

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Now that is interesting as I've never seen anything like it before, although it looks as though there is one more letter than just the 'R's reversed and intertwined. I have a "Recruiters Pamphlet" for the late 1890's and there's no mention of a "specific badge" for them in there although I knew of the ribbons being worn. Would you object if I told David Langley about this, as I'm unaware of one in his book??

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No. of course not. The photo is a modern print that I've had for about 15 - 20 years, not an original, by the way.

The photo of Turner & his sons was taken in the 1920's I think - I have other copy photos, group shots of Corps of Drums, in which the sons feature, they're dated.

I have a coloured photo postcard of a Recruiting Sergeant in Blues, I think it's from a series to do with "Types in London" or similar, he wears a similar sort of badge which I think is coloured yellow (gold bullion" or yellow on red.

I'm still lookng for it..............

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Is there anywhere where I could read "Mercie Sunshine's Chats About Soldiers?"

Also, I'm fairly sure that Lt. Col. Mitchell, mentioned earlier as a possible boy soldier, was 15 when the Home Guard was started up in the summer of 1940. I checked and he was born in 1925...

~TS

I've located the book again, I don't think I can scan it without breaking the binding up, I'll photograph the pages.

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Now that is interesting as I've never seen anything like it before, although it looks as though there is one more letter than just the 'R's reversed and intertwined. I have a "Recruiters Pamphlet" for the late 1890's and there's no mention of a "specific badge" for them in there although I knew of the ribbons being worn. Would you object if I told David Langley about this, as I'm unaware of one in his book??

Got it Graham - it is in Mr Langley's book, but without illustration & covered by just a few words as "171D":

"For some time before 1934, a badge "PPR" was worn by Paid Pensioner Recruiters e.g. PVCN 1929.

(171A), worn on both sleeves in blue serge frock only, was introduced as a replacement.

Army Recruiters wore a shoulder title above the badge, & we illustrate this on page 121."

"(171A)" is the union flags, crossed, the "ARMY RECRUITER" curved shoulder title, gold bullion on blue, is shown as worn above the crossed flags.

The Army recruiter title, above crossed flags, above 3 x chevrons is shown in a photo c 1935.

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The group consists of a few photos, some of which include this man, who is identified as "Dad" on the reverse.

Other photos in the group show him in Full Dress with other men, also in khaki Service Dress some photos show him with 20th Hussars insigni, & some with MGC insgnia.

Here's what the above photo would look like in colour, albeit this illustraton is of an officer - dark blue uniform, yellow frogging, red bag, yellow plume & boss to the busby:

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This thread shows a 1913 recruiting leaflet appealing for Irish recruits, including Boys, to the Royal Navy & Royal Marines:

http://gmic.co.uk/index.php?showtopic=41585

Edited by leigh kitchen

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I arrive at this thread rather late. The illustrations are excellent, and the extracts from Regulations illuminating, but do please be careful to read Graham's captions: a fair number are quotes from TF, VF, Militia or SR regulations and therefore not applicable to regular forces.

There is, however, a fair bit of sentimental codswallop written, spoken, and thought about boys in the army.

'The past is a different country' we are told. Indeed, as recently as when Frank Richards DCM MM 2ndRWF left school, it was at age 12 years to go straight to work. My grandfather who fought in the Great War left school at 14. The army recruited boys at 14, with a view to training drummers, pipers, trumpeters, buglers and tailors. Many such went on to high rank, and quickly. Mobilization Regs 1914 specifically permitted COs to take drummers etc under age on Active Service. 'Drummer' was not an appointment for any ordinary soldier, and it carried extra responsibility and pay.

Regarding Isandhlwana, I once did an analysis of the ages of those listed as drummers among the dead. I had been hoping to find evidence of lots of boys on the list, but was surprised at the maturity where there was evidence of age. Unfortunately, my Zulu War material is in the attic, but I could dig out the evidence if anyone is interested.

Don't believe all you read about the aftermath of Isandhlwana either: I studied at the feet of FWD Jackson, the great expert on the primary sources, and he was dismissive of most of the lurid nonsense, especially the D Morris stuff.

But, as I said, great illustrations.

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George Parker MM.

A Brighton boy, he joined the army at Brighton on a half day off from the Co-Op & after service with training units served with The Sherwood Foresters (he is wearing the cap badge of the Bedfordshire Regiment in this photograph).

A corporal in charge of a Lewis Gun Section and holder of the Military Medal, he was wounded by a grenade thrown by a surrendering German. Later as a sergeant, still on Lewis Guns he was shot in the knee & hip. He tried to rejoin the army during the 1920's but was rejected because of his wounds.

"........the year was 1914, the First World War had begun and my mates and fellow workers were leaving one by one to join the Forces. I felt alone and somehow asshamed because I was too young to join...I suddenly made up my mind and went into a Recruiting Office that had been opened in Church Road. I do not think I can say that it was all patriotism, but my mates had gone and I had the feeling that I was regarded as a kid, too young to do what others were doing. Mind you, I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. Inside the office there was a recruiting seregeant and an officer, as well as a medical officer. I was really scared but the sergeant asked me what I wanted, I looked so young. Then I said that I wanted to join up and he looked at me as if I should still be in my cradle. I suppose he was not far wrong! He asked my age and I boldly said "18 yearts" He looked at me with a smile and said "Does your mother know that you are 18?" Then he said "Alright son, 18 it is" He took my name and passed me over the the MO who had me strip naked, and he examined and passed me. The officer then made me take the Oath of Allegiance and there I was - a soldier at 15 3/4."

George Parker "The Tale of a Boy Soldier A Great War Memoir" (QueenSpark Books, 2008)

Edited by leigh kitchen

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In the period with which I'm most familiar - say 1790 to 1820 - there is little or no evidence that drummers were boys at all, despite popular myth. I think one also needs to distinguish between 'regular recruiting' of boy soldiers and the kind of 'nudge nudge, wink, wink' war-time events referred to by George Parker, boy soldier.

I've been working through pay records of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment from 1808 to 1816. There are about two dozen Drummers [a rank, some of whom were fifers] in 1812, but many appear to be returned to 'line' duties as the war goes on. Keep in mind that, in the early 19th Century, drums were one of the only means of long distance/ broadcast communication on the battalefield and a boy who couldn't master the dozens of calls would be of little use. Not sure what standard of musicianship would be needed, but surely not all 'boys' had it.

Secondly, in 'my' period, drummers were also tasked with helping move wounded off the field, not a job for striplings. Finally, there would be considerable resistance, I suspect, from the bandmaster to having a revolving door on his band: spending months and years training musicians only to have them 'age out', leave the band for a line company and leave him with a new group to train.

I suspect that the 'minature soldier' resplendent in muscian's regalia was much more common in Victorian postcards, stories and popular imagination than in the barracks and cantonments of Her Majesty's or His Majesty's imperial armies. In fact, Rudtard Kiplings "Drums of the Fore and Aft" wonderfully encapsulates both the mawkish sentiment and the rather different reality of drummers on campaign. I recommend it highly!

My tuppence worth and more!

Peter

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Absolutely - I chose the "Drummer Boys" in quotes as a thread title in reference to the popular (well, in Victorian times anyway) concept of the boys in the military - plucky, patriotic little lads from humble backgrounds displaying great fortitude whilst all around is going to ratchet.

Michael mentioned "Drums of the Fore and Aft" (posts no.42 - 44), I have'nt read it but it sounds rather different to this book published about 1883 (post no. 14).

This little book It contains stories by a Mrs J. Ballard, widow of General Ballard, CB, of the Royal Engineers & appears to be a good example of Victorian mawkish sentiment - the "little bugler" is taken ill on campaign & dies back home in England.

During your period Peter Drummers would be involved in parleys & truces?

I take it that they would simply accompany those who did the negotiating rather than fulfil the role of the old heralds?

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On the subject of Boy Drummers (as opposed to Boy Soldiers):

I've been researching three RA ancestors who enlisted as underage "Drummer & Trumpeter"s at ages 11, 13 and 14 between 1819 and 1853 and subsequently attested at age 18

I've come across these youngsters:

Colour Sergeant John Murray ….. 50th Foot ….. enlisted 1786 ….. aged 5,

"youngest boy recruit to (TACA's) knowledge ….. beats:"

James Wade ….. 9th Foot ….. served throughout Peninsular Campaign ….. aged 7

(http://www.archhisto...ca/history.html)

Lieut General/Major General Joseph Brome…. RA …. enlisted 1741 / 1751 … aged 8

(http://www.revwar75..../musician1.htm; http://gihs.gold.ac.uk/gihs24.html)

David Morton ….. RA ….. enlisted 1815 ….. aged 9

(http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/t ... 1164212562)

Quartermaster Sergeant James McKay ….. RA ….. enlisted 1803 ….. aged 11

(http://www.reubique.com/mckay.htm)

William Lang ... RA … enlisted 1853 ….. aged 12 … served two years, Crimea

(Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, 1932, XI, No 42)

"In general, drummers were sons of soldiers who were on strength with the regiment …"

(http://rnchs.ca/tattoo/band02.html)

CCP Lawson quotes Bennett Cuthbertson:

"Of this [preferred] sort, the soldiers' children afford a sufficient supply, and a preference is to be given them, for the sake of serving the father (if he deserves it) and because such boys from being bred in the regiment from infancy, have a natural affection and attachment to it and are seldom induced to desert having no other place to take shelter at."

(Lawson, CCP, A History of the Uniforms of the British Army. Volume III, p 122)

Interestingly, Lawson continues:

"Boys under fourteen, however, were an encumbrance to a regiment, especially on service, as they were often "unable to bear fatigue or even carry their drums on a march", which got damaged by being placed on the wagons".

The fathers of all my three were RA. Two fathers died while serving. In the case of the 11 year old, he enlisted the year his mother died. He had three other younger siblings.

Drummer Thomas Flinn, 64th Foot, (together with another 15 year old) is the youngest ever winner of the VC. Indian Mutiny, November 28, 1857: "during a charge on the enemy's guns, although wounded himself, he engaged in a hand-to-hand encounter with two of the rebel artillerymen killing them and capturing the artillery piece".(http://www.scouting.milestones.btinternet.co.uk/cornwell.htm)

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Just a note to David Grumpy - reading this post I found that I had overlooked your thread of December 2009. You mention that you have some research on the Zulu War - particularly the ages of 'Boy Soldiers'. When you have time I would be very pleased to hear of this research - apart from posting here - it would make a good thread on my Zulu Iklwas - which if I remember , is now under Brit. Badges and Equipment. Mervyn

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An undated press photo from the interbellum:

"Fire! England's youngest Gunners at gun drill.

As a special show in this year's great Royal Tornament in the Olymipa Hall (London), the youngest Cadets of the Duke of York's Royal Military School in Dover give a Gun Drill, with the purpose to demonstrate how to drive on, give a few rounds of quick-fire, and drove off again. They are now in severe training, because every team wants to win 1st prize. You see the firing of a 12 Pounder gun."

2rwqk9h.jpg

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