A veteran of Gallipoli at the age of 16


When Pte Frederick John William Lemmon arrived home in Luton in early 1916 he had served in the 1/5th Bedfordshire Regiment since attesting the previous April and seen action in Gallipoli, where he was seriously wounded.

Yet what was not discovered by the military authorities until December 1915 was that Pte Lemmon was in fact only 16 years old - far too young to have been accepted for foreign service. And by the time he arrived back home at 34 Spencer Road, Luton, having been discharged from the Army for age reasons, he had only just reached his 17th birthday.

Frederick LemmonFrederick was born in Croydon, Surrey, on January 10th, 1899. When he attested to become private 5067, 1/5th Bedfordshire Regiment, in April 1915, his military record shows he was 5ft 5in tall and had an "apparent age" of 19 years three months, rather than his actual age of 16 years and three months.

His military record shows he attested at Bedford on April 4th, 1915. He embarked with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force from Devonport on the HMT Braemar Castle and was severely wounded at Gallipoli on August 15th/16th, 1915. He was transferred to a hospital ship the same day and invalided back to England, where he was admitted to the Duchess of Connaught's Hospital, Taplow, Bucks.

On December 8th, 1915, he was posted to the 3/5th Battalion Beds Regiment, but on December 23rd his true age was found out and he was discharged "through making a mis-statement as to age on enlistment". He was by then 16 years and 11 months old and had served 262 days.

His wounds were detailed as a gunshot wound to the left shoulder sustained from a sniper while in action at Suvla Bay on August 15th, 1915. The entrance wound had healed but the bullet was still in the left shoulder region.

He was complaining of pain over the left shoulder blade and in the left elbow, especially after exertion. There was very little wasting of his upper left body and there were no physicals signs in his chest.

The injury was not considered to be permanent, probably lasting three months, dependant on an operation being performed for removal of the bullet. He was eventually admitted to a military hospital in Hampstead on April 29th, 1916, and was admitted as an in-patient at a Cambridge hospital for observations in May and June 1917.

While in hospital in Taplow in November 1915, Frederick wrote to his parents: "You may be interested to hear that Sir William Horsler, the King's doctor, recently said I was the most remarkable case in the hospital. The bullet went in at the left side of the neck, fractured the first rib, flattened the left lung, and the fluid and blood forced my heart over to the right side, where it stayed for some time.

"The doctors put a tube in my back to withdraw the blood, and then my heart started to go back, and it is now in its proper place, I had nine doctors round me, and they said I ought to be thankful I was alive. They saved my life here."

Frederick took no further part in Army service during World War One, but re-enlisted in the 5th Beds and Herts Regiment in July 1924.

In late 1918 Frederick married Violet May Duck, of Cobden Street, Luton, at St Matthew's Church, High Town. He died in September 1986 in Luton.