The Lost Boys

‘The Lost Boys’ exhibition will commemorate the young lads who fought for their country 100 years ago.

Just over 100 years ago, war broke out between England and Germany, and consequently the British armies recruited men to fight overseas for what they believed was a righteous cause.

Among these new recruits were boys as young as 12 years old who slipped beneath the radar to fight for their country, regardless of the laws in place that limited the age for armed service overseas to 19 years. By the end of the war, an estimated 250,000 underage soldiers between the ages of 14 and 19 had seen active service. The youngest of these was 12 year old Sidney Lewis who fought at the Battle of Somme, and survived.

The front was no place for a child: along with enemy action, troops had to contend with trench foot, a shortage of food, and rat-infested conditions. The highest influx of underage soldiers took place in 1915, when the number of adult volunteers dropped dramatically. Recruitment officers often turned a blind eye to recruits who were obviously underage: they were paid 6 pounds per recruit. However, 1 in 5 underage soldiers were sent home within a month of their recruitment due to being too small to fight or admitting their real age.

However, it wasn’t just those who fought on the front who were affected by the war. Young people throughout the country were affected by loss of family, loss of education, and loss of adult supervision as adult efforts were required elsewhere. Young people’s experiences at the time have permeated culture even today, as children’s literature is saturated with war themes.

After his success in being awarded an AHRC research grant, Professor Stephen Dixon (MMU) has curated a ceramics exhibition which commemorates the Lost Boys of WWI. Professor Dixon says “we are delighted to receive this award from the AHRC to support this timely and exciting project, and are looking forward to starting to work together on the first phase of the research, to be shown in the Holden Café space at MMU in November”.

Steve’s work has led the way in re-figuring war commemoration in the medium of ceramics, in terms of collective memory and public engagement. The exhibition will focus on individual stories in different ways, from the boy soldiers from the Staffordshire area to the young children left behind or young protesters from the North West. Book free tickets to the opening night reception here:

The Lost Boys exhibition will host a special Remembrance Day event featuring a performance by Honour Choir. Book free tickets here:

To find out more about young people during the war years, join us for an international conference to examine the effects of the First World War on children and young people, and its social and psychological legacies. Book free tickets here:

These events are part of Humanities in Public’s WAR strand. There appears to be no human society untouched by war. We present a whole range of responses to the past, present and future of war, which is as inalienably human as it is dehumanising.

Humanities in Public is a festival of events surrounding the research done within the Humanities, Languages and Social Science faculty at Manchester Metropolitan University. Many events are FREE and all events are open to everyone. Find out more and book your place here:

This was also published on the Manchester Metropolitan University website.

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