Just finished my part in a series of school assemblies on Remembrance Day. This years theme was boy soldiers and it was centred round the astonishing statistic that over 200,000 boys under the legal enlistment age fought in the British army during World War 1, about a quarter of its operational strength. The youngest was John Condon, killed aged 14.
Two youngsters were awarded the Victoria Cross, George Peachment and John Cornwell. The letter from John Cornwall's captain to his mother never fails to put a lump in the throat:
"He remained steady at his most exposed post at the gun, waiting for orders. His gun would not bear on the enemy ; all but two of the ten crew were killed or wounded, and he was the only one who was in such an exposed position. But he felt he might be needed, and, indeed, he might have been ; so he stayed there, standing and waiting, under heavy fire, with just his own brave heart and God's help to support him. I cannot express to you my admiration of the son you have lost from this world. No other comfort would I attempt to give to the mother of so brave a lad, but to assure her of what he was, and what he did, and what an example he gave."