Aftermath - when the boys came home

Saturday 11 June 2011

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from the Waterford News & Star 7 November 2003

Nationwide to feature boy soldier’s story

The youngest casualty of the First World War had not yet reached his 14th birthday when he was killed on the fields of Flanders in Southern Belgium.

The story of John Condon, the boy soldier from Waterford City, is the subject of a Nationwide WW1 special on the Eve of Armistice Day, Monday next, Nov. 10th, at 7pm on RTE 1 television. The programme tells the story of how this young Waterford lad trained for military service in the army barracks in Clonmel, after he fooled a British Army recruiting officer into believing he was 18 years of age. John Condon's family only discovered he was in Belgium when they were contacted by the British Army after he went missing in action on the 24th of May 1915.

Condon's father informed the military authorities of his son's real age and the British Military records were amended.

The record of the youngest soldier to die in World War One is now in the record books in London. Ten years would pass before John Condon's body would be discovered by a farmer and his remains finally laid to rest in Poelcapple cemetery near Ypres.

In February of this year — eighty years after John Condon was buried — the nephew and a cousin of the boy soldier became the first blood relatives to come and pay their respects at his graveside. What the family discovered is that the grave of their uncle is the most visited of all the war graves in that country and that their uncle John is hero to the Belgians.

The NATIONWIDE team accompanied John and Sonny Condon on their journey of discovery into a past that they and the Irish people had largely buried, along with the 35,000 other Irishmen who gave up their lives in the war they said would end all wars.

Even today, in Waterford City, John Condon's memory is largely forgotten and recent attempts to erect a monument to his memory were met with opposition from some who still cannot see fit to remember those Irishmen who died wearing a British uniform.

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