27 October 2016
A blue plaque is unveiled on boy soldier's former London home
Relatives of Britain’s youngest WW1 soldier, who fought at the Battle of the Somme in 1916, turned out in force along with hundreds of local people for the unveiling of a blue plaque on his former London home.
Sidney Lewis was just 12 years old when he joined up in 1915 and at the age of 13 he fought at the Somme. At this point his mum became aware of his whereabouts and sent his birth certificate to the authorities, which led to him being sent home.
One hundred years later, seven car loads of the Lewis family attended a special ceremony along with around 500 local people, dignitaries and schoolchildren at Sidney’s childhood home, 934 Garratt Lane (formerly 53 Defoe Road), Tooting, where his 83-year-old son Colin unveiled the blue plaque.
Buglers played at the ceremony on 24 September, which included a recitation by a 12-year-old boy in full military uniform and a reading by the Mayor of Wandsworth. The crowd enjoyed popular wartime tunes and a performance from an upstairs window by acclaimed Irish violinist Tracey McRory, who played the specially-composed Far from Home. Guests included three Chelsea Pensioners and representatives of the Armed Forces, past and present.
Sidney’s plaque was paid for by a fundraising campaign called ‘A Quid for Sid’, organised by the Heritage Lottery-funded Summerstown182 community history project, www.summerstown182.co.uk.
Local historian Geoff Simmons, of Summerstown182, which is telling the stories of the community through the 182 names on the WW1 memorial in Summerstown’s St Mary’s Church, said: ‘We wanted to create the right mix of military formality but also keep things friendly and community-focused. This was a very special one as Sid’s story is so unique and incredible and particularly captures the attention of young people – I hope its now firmly established in Tooting mythology.’
Sidney (born in 1903) was authenticated by the Imperial War Museums in 2013 as the youngest soldier to serve in the British Army during WW1. After being sent home as a boy soldier, Sidney re-enlisted in 1918 and later served in WW2. View his digital memorial at https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org/lifestory/2653097.