Young men enlisted to fight in the Great War for a variety of reasons. Some did so for the regular wage they sent back home, to feed their families. Others joined in a fever of patriotism, while more did so because they saw the war as a great adventure, which would be over in a few months, and they didn’t want to miss the excitement.
The youngest recorded casualty is 14 year old, John Condon, from Waterford and his reasons for joining up remain unknown. From Wheelbarrow Lane in Waterford city, he lied about his age, joined the Royal Irish Regiment as a reservist in 1913 and arrived in France just before Christmas 1914. He fought in the second battle of Ypres in April and May 1915 where the Germans used poison gas as a weapon of war. On the second last day of the battle, the ‘boy soldier’, as he became known, died in a poisoned gas attack. He was buried near Ypres and his grave is one of the most frequently visited of the war graves in Flanders. It’s hard to imagine a 14 year old, someone in second year in secondary school, going over the top in the horror that was WW1.
Altogether, about 4,800 people from Waterford fought in WW1 with over 1100 never making it home. There is, however, a memorial in Waterford, dedicated to all men and women from Waterford who lost their lives in armed conflict, including the Irish War of Independence.