Heroic Youngsters and Child Soldiers of a Different Time
'Children of France at War'

the Glorification of Adolescent Soldiers

2:coverpages of a French book from 1917 : 'Les Enfants Héroiques' - Heroic Children


It might be argued that Great War France exhibited a degree of patriotism bordering on the extreme, perhaps rightly or wrongly, but in any case to a degree otherwise unsurpassed in the 20th century. Everyone was expected to come to the aid of la Patrie, male and female, young and old. Harking back to a long tradition of warfare and hero adulation going back to the days of the Hundred Year's War and Joan of Arc, French writers and editors were not at all loath to extoll the virtues of French adolescents willing to take up arms against the invading Teutonic barbarians.

Many stories were printed in the newsmedia of heroic young boys (or girls as in the case of Emilienne Moreau, the Lady of Loos), who though too young to join the colors, fought against the Germans nonetheless, often giving their lives in the process. Some stories were undoubtedly true, others very difficult to verify. The 'Brave Boy Scout' story was recounted and illustrated many times to give but one example, the account apparently being based on a short German news item with no mention of name, date or locality. Many other tales involve French youngsters who, having lost their parents during the war, especially those in German occupied territory, join up with a passing army unit and become soldiers in fact, if not necessarily officialy.

But whether based on fact or on patriotically inspired fiction, such stories were recounted and printed in many forms and versions in countless books, magazines and newspapers, for both young and old. We show here a short collection of illustrations from a variety of publications dealing with the subject, as well as several English and French language texts, (almost) all from the period of 1914-1918


left : an 'Image d'Epinal'
right : vignette from a French children'smagazine - 'le Bon Point'

to Illustration Galleries

'Les Enfants Héroiques'
'Livres Roses'
'Mes Belles Histoires'
'Poilu de 12 Ans'
'Les Trois Couleurs'
'Un Gosse Héroique'
From British Magazines
'La Semaine de Suzette'
Youngsters Under Arms : Photos from News Magazines
Playing at War
16 Year Old Marine Fuselier
'les Livres Roses pour la Jeunesse de Larousse 2'
Georges Redon : a Moral Education for the Children of France
'Un Poilu de 12 Ans' - coverpages from a children's magazine

to Text Galleries

English Language Texts
'Heroes and Heroic Deeds of the Great War'
A 14 Year Old French Soldier
from 'TP's Journal of Great Deeds of the Great War'
from 'The Penny War Weekly' : Gustave Chatain
from 'Young England' - a Boy's Magazine
The Lad from Monaco
from 'Newnes Illustrated' : Long Live France
French Language Texts
Un Petit Héros
Soldat à 13 Ans
Enfants Heros
Les « Gosses » Héroïques 01
Les « Gosses » Héroïques 02
Les « Gosses » Héroïques 03
Les Enfants Heroiques par S. Coubé
Une Belle Mort d'un Petit Soldat
La Jeunesse Héroïque
Petits Soldats Alliés
La Guerre au Jardin du Luxembourg
Petits Héros de la Grande Guerre
l'Héroïsme des Jeunes
La Prise du Fort Ornano
Les Miettes de la Gloire par Emile Pech
Les Enfants et la Guerre
Le Plus Jeune Héros de la Guerre - Jean-Corentin Carré
l'Ame des Petits Français
Spanish Language Texts
Los Niños en la Guerra

left: an illustration by Alsatian artist Hansi (J.J.Waltz) : the Battle of the Marne
right: from a French children's magazine - a youngster joins an artillery unit

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