Mark Bostridge writes: Britain is the only country in Europe to recruit 16-year-olds into its armed forces. The cynical targeting of underprivileged youngsters must end
On the evening of 22 December 1915, a young British subaltern called Roland Leighton was mortally wounded as he went out ahead of his platoon to inspect the barbed wire in front of trenches at Hébuterne on the Western Front.
It was a moonlit night, with Germans only 100 yards away, and Leighton had no sooner reached the gap in the hedge on the concealed path leading to No Man’s Land than he was shot in the stomach by a sniper. He was given a huge dose of morphine and taken to the village of Louvencourt, 10 miles away, where he was operated on the next morning. His chances of survival were slim, and at 11pm he died peacefully. He was 20 years old.
A century on, Leighton is still remembered as the glittering public-school hero of Testament of Youth, the memoir written by the woman he might have married had he survived the war, Vera Brittain. In the book’s recent feature film adaptation, Leighton was portrayed by Kit Harington of Game of Thrones fame.… Read more