Posted by: gillarbuthnott | March 30, 2019

The Boy Who Went to War

James Marchbank

This is 14 year old James Marchbank, whose story I told in my most recent book A Secret Diary of the First World War. Along with thousands of other teenage soldiers, he fought on the Western Front from 1914-18. The book has been out for several months now, and I’ve moved on to other projects, but I can’t get James out of my head. The difference between him and those other thousands is that he was – aged just 14 – fighting legally, with everyone aware of just how young he was. This was because he had already enlisted in the Territorial Forces (1/8th Battalion Royal Scots) as a boy drummer and bugler. In all my research, I didn’t come across anyone else in this situation, and I now wonder if he may have been the youngest legal serving soldier on the Western Front. I’m not quite sure where to head or who to ask to find out more about this, so if anyone out there has any ideas…


  1. Did he survive the war Gill?

    • Yes, he did. His grandchildren have his diaries and let me use them to write his story. It was an amazing experience and quite a privilege.

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