Between 15,000 and 20,000 underage youths, some as young as ten, signed up to fight in Canada's armed forces in the First World War. They served in the trenches alongside their elders, and fought in all the major battles: Ypres, the Somme, Passchendaele, Vimy Ridge, and the rest. Many were injured or suffered psychological wounds. Many died. This is the first book to tell their story.
Some boys joined up to escape unhappy homes and workplaces. Others went with their parents' blessing, carrying letters from fathers and mothers asking the recruiters to take their eager sons. The romantic notion of a short, victorious campaign was wiped out the second these boys arrived on the Western Front. The authors, who narrate the fighting with both military professionalism and humanity, portray many boys who, in the heat of battle, made a seamless transition from follower to leader to hero.
Authors Dan Black and John Boileau combed the archives and collections to bring these stories to life. Passages from letters the boy soldiers wrote home reveal the range of emotions and experiences they underwent, from the humorous to the unspeakably horrible. Their parents' letters touch us with their concern, love, uncertainty, and often, grief. Meticulously researched and abundantly illustrated with photographs, paintings, and a collection of specially commissioned maps, Old Enough to Fight is Canadian military and social history at its most fascinating.
DAN BLACK, former Editor-in-Chief of Legion Magazine, has written and edited hundreds of articles on Canada's military, past and present. He has worked with serving men and women at all levels and with most of Canada's top military historians. He lives in Ottawa.
JOHN BOILEAU is a retired Canadian army colonel and author of ten books and nearly 300 articles. He is a frequent commentator on military issues for radio and television and a lecturer to service organizations and historical societies. In 2010 the Minister of National Defence appointed him Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel of the Halifax Rifles. He lives in Nova Scotia.
"Black and Boileau made extensive use of the boys? own letters in telling this tale. The boys? firsthand accounts of trench warfare, of poison gas, of near-constant artillery shelling, of the dead and dying, are the true strength of this book."
"Old Enough to Fight gives us a vivid picture of the intolerable conditions the combatants endured. The marvel is not that so many were killed or seriously wounded in mind or body, but that some many survived relatively unscathed. Old Enough to Fight is a horrifying thought-provoking book, suitable for reading as we commemorate all who have died in war."
"Old Enough to Fight grips the imagination by its vivid portrayal of the youngsters through whose eyes one sees unimaginable conditions on the Western Front."
"Dan Black, respected editor of Legion Magazine, and John Boileau, a retired army colonel and the author of ten books, tell the compelling story of Canada's war effort through these underage witnesses.... Perhaps the greatest strength of Old Enough to Fight is that these stories may resonate deeply with today's youth and help them connect with the war of one hundred years ago."
"The authors include excerpts from the boys' letters home, which include vivid descriptions of trench warfare, battles, and the constant discomfort in which the soldiers lives. They were cold, wet, hungry, ill, and often lonley for home, and the letters make that plain."
"The boys' backgrounds are fully developed, and their testimony is skilfully woven into the bloody battles and routine horrors of trench warfare. The human element extends the book's appeal to readers beyond those whose interest is primarily military... destined to be an immediate success."