In June 1918, 130 teenagers arrived in France as just another draft of replacements among the thousands sent to reinforce the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front. Within the next five months, one in four would be dead, over half of them wounded. This is the story of the lives and deaths of these ordinary young men in an unimaginable war. By focussing on this one party of Doomed Youth, author Tim Lynch is able to explore and explain several aspects of the Great War which have received scant attention. Firstly, the summer of 1918 itself. Why was it necessary for these boys to die so late in the conflict? The German Spring Offensive had failed - but so did the calls for an Armistice, and the second Battle of the Marne in July would take many more lives. The butchery would continue, pointlessly, to November. Secondly, there is very little written about conscription itself and the Home Front, about rationing and even organised opposition to the War.
In June 1918, 135 teenagers arrived in France as part of the thousands sent to reinforce the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front. The German Spring offensive had failed, but it was far from over. The coming months would see some of the fiercest, bloodiest, yet least remembered fighting of the war as these young men finally broke the trench stalemate and forced the enemy into retreat. During this time, one in four of these teenaged soldiers would be killed and over half of them wounded. Looking beyond the war as portrayed by poets and playwrights, Tim Lynch tells the story of Britain's true Unknown Soldiers – the teenage conscripts who won the war only to be forgotten by history. These were not the naïve recruits of 1914 who believed it would all be over by Christmas, but young men who had grown up in wartime – men who knew about the trenches, the gas and the industrialised slaughter, but who, when their time came, answered their country's call anyway. For the first time, following the experiences of a typical reinforcement draft, this book explores what turned men so often dismissed as 'shirkers' into a motivated, efficient and professional army, but it also reminds us that in the cemeteries of France and Flanders, behind every headstone is a personal story.