The 72-year-old man who lied about his age to serve in World War I

In times of war, many young people lie about their age to enter the army earlier than expected. What is less common, however, is that there are also people too old for military service who look younger on paper. John William Boucher, whose story is traced by the Smithsonian Magazine, is one of them. During the First World War, this Canadian, aged 72 in 1917, said he was 48 in order to leave to fight in Europe.

At that time, the man, born in 1844, was already a veteran of another conflict, the American Civil War (1861-1865), where he had joined between 35,000 and 50,000 of his compatriots to fight alongside the Union. At the end of the war, he returned to Canada and continued an ordinary life. In 1914, a new conflict broke out, this time on the other side of the Atlantic.

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If, since 1867, the Canada is technically an autonomous territory, it is at the time still under British control. In total, almost 620.000 Canadiens left to serve in Europe. John William Boucher, who lived in a small town in Ontario, wrote in the Post-Standard newspaper in 1918 that seeing young men emboldened in uniform, he had a “revelation”. “My place is among them”thought the veteran.

From 72… to 48

It will not be easy for John William Boucher to join the army. He went to a conscription office in 1914, where he was refused and was reminded that the age limit was set at 45. The Canadian was not discouraged, however, and tried his luck again in 1916, at the age of 71, when he heard that the 72e Queen’s University Battery Regiment looking for a cook on the front. But again, his request was denied.

The third time will be the good one. In January 1917, the 257e canadian railway battalion increases the age limit for militaryincreasing it from 45 to 48 years. “This is my ultimate opportunity. Being with the rail construction battalions means being very close to the trenches”, writes John William Boucher. During the medical examination at the recruitment office, he told the doctor that he was 48 years old, twenty-four years younger than his real age. The doctor is not fooled and smiles. The Canadian passes the physical exam and, at age 72, becomes sapper.

The work of the septuagenarian battalion should not be neglected. “Logistics are crucialpoints out Tim Cook, author and chief historian at the canadian war museum. You can’t fight without ammunition. You have to move soldiers to the front, and the wounded away from the front, and if you don’t get food, water and rum to the soldiers, they will rebel.”

After eight months of service, John William Boucher’s age caught up with him. The man suffers from rheumatism and is sent to the infirmary, where he is asked for his “true age”. “In two or three weeks, I will be 73 years old”, admits the septuagenarian. His adventure on the front ends there. recovering at London, he will be received by King George V who heard his story. Welcomed as a hero in Canada, he tells anyone who wants to hear his story and goes on tour. He died in February 1939, at the age of 94, six months before the invasion of Poland by Adolf Hitler.

Source: by

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