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1914::Canada's Youngest Soldier From Nanaimo, British Columbia

Updated: Apr 4

Canada's youngest soldier became Canada's youngest veteran.


1914::Canada's Enlistment Restrictions

"1914::Canada's Enlistment Restrictions" Clip: Victoria Daily Times (1914)

Victoria, British Columbia


In November 1914, months after the outbreak of war, 14-year-old William Nevard from Nanaimo, British Columbia, entered a Vancouver recruiting office and became the youngest man to enlist in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Although the minimum age for enlistment was 18, there were exceptions. Nevard's exception was his previous military experience as a company bugler. In May 1915, he was off to Britain with the 29th Battalion. Within a few short weeks of being overseas, he arrived on the Western Front, where he fought in the trenches for over two years before being discharged for being underage.


1919::Canada's Youngest Soldier and Veteran

"1919::Canada's Youngest Soldier and Veteran" Clip: Vancouver Daily World (1919)

Vancouver, British Columbia


When the war began, many young teens lied about their age at the recruiting office, believing that, like their father or older brother, it was their patriotic duty to volunteer for service no matter the rules. Others enlisted, believing the promise of military pay would help ease their impoverished situation at home. Whatever their reason, these brave adolescents soon found themselves in a foreign country overseas, fighting amongst strangers on a bloody battlefield. In 1917, when Canada's new Military Service Act (1917) imposed age restrictions on personnel, the young soldiers were suddenly discharged and sent home. For the first time in history, a man had to be at least 20 years old to be a soldier, and civilian men between the ages of 20 and 50 who had not yet volunteered were conscripted and forced to replace the young soldiers on the front line. Nevard, now 17 years old, faced being sent home from the war. His Battalion filed for an exception for the young soldier who wished to stay with his comrades, but the military rejected their request. Shortly before Christmas, Nevard was sent home to British Columbia and honourably discharged as Canada's youngest war veteran.


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