Sidney Lewis (Service No: 14645) is one of the youngest known soldiers to have fought in the trenches of World War One (WW1). Trained in Grantham, Sidney was sent to the front and fought for six weeks in the Battle of the Somme during 1916.
Sidney Lewis enlisted with the East Surrey Regiment during August 1915. He was aged just 12-years-old. By the age of 13-years he was fighting on the Somme.
From Tooting, South London, Sidney felt he needed to do his bit for the war effort and joined up. Posted to Grantham, Sidney underwent training with the Machine Gun Corps at Belton. Training completed, he was then posted to France with the 106th Machine Gun Company where he saw six weeks active service in the Battle of the Somme. On 24 August 1916 it came to light that he was underage when his mother sent his birth certificate to the War Office.
Sidney was then immediately withdrawn from the front line and sent back to Grantham where he was discharged but not before he had managed to qualify for the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. His service also saw him take part in action during the Battle of Delville Wood which left around 500,000 men wounded or killed.
The Machine Gun Corps had a reputation for taking the fittest and the best to try and satisfy the demand for more, and yet more, intelligent young men to man the guns. Operation of the guns required significant mathematical skill and grueling physical work so getting selected as a 12-year-old must have been quite an achievement for young Sidney Lewis.
Sidney survived the war and went on to serve again in World War Two, undertaking the hazardous task of bomb disposal. Even this was only after he re-enlisted in 1918 to serve in the Army of Occupation in Austria after the Armistice.
In civilian life Sidney served as a policeman before he died aged 63 in 1969.
- Daily Mail, 11 Nov 2013 - http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2499832/Sidney-Lewis-Youngest-WW1-soldier-fought-Somme-aged-13.html
- Lives of The First World War - https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org/lifestory/2653097
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