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12-year-old was youngest WWI British soldier

A 12-year-old boy who fought at the Battle of the Somme is youngest known British soldier to have served in the First World War.

Mr Maher had told a recruiting officer that he was 18 to enable him to join the 2nd King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment in 1917. But his true age was revealed when he broke down in tears under shellfire and was hauled before an unsympathetic officer.

Mr Maher, who died aged 96 in 1999, remembered: “I was locked up on a train under guard, one of five under-age boys caught serving on the front being sent back to England.

“The youngest was 12 years old. A little nuggety bloke he was, too. We joked that the other soldiers would have had to have lifted him up to see over the trenches.”

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