Little Boy Soldiers. The show. Lyrics and Music copyright 2014 Anthony Francis Cummings. All rights reserved.
For the purpose of the book. I have placed Frank in the 16th Manchester's (The first of the Pals battalions) but it actually looks like he served with the 19th as he was one of the few to be mentioned in the National Roll of the Great War. (A book you had to pay to be entered into.) He was born in Hulme in Manchester on the 8th Jan 1885 and was one of the fortunate few to survive his time at the front. (For him and for me and my family I suppose!)
The 16th Manchester Pals were Kitcheners 1st volunteer Army and were recruited in the Summer of 1914 and spent the next sixteen months training at Heaton Park until embarkation to France in late 1915.
During early 1916 the 16th were billetted at a town called Maricourt just to the south of Mountaban, and on the opening days of the Battle of the Somme. Mountaban became the objective for the Manchesters to re take from the Germans. George Cummings wrote his last poem here.
Percy watched both his older brothers sign up for active service and unbeknown to his parents both he and his younger brother Edward ran away to the port town of Southampton and managed to enlist underage and join the 17th Manchesters who were on there way over to reinforce the 16th. These were the Little Boy Soldiers of the book title. The Liberal M.P. for Mansfield. Sir Arthur Markham tried to stop the Armys underhand tactics for the recruitment of underage boys into the armed forces.
Percy died in 1916 during an enemy gas attack on the trenches while saving the life of his younger brother Edward. He was 17.
Little is known about George as his Army career was cut brutally short after an affair he had been conducting with a senior Captain in his battalion was discovered. Both men were classed as K.I.A. during a daylight sortie into No Mans Land to re-connect a damaged section of communication cable. (A mission later described as suicidal in daylight.)
However both men received full honours and their respective familys were entitled to the mens War pension. It has been a long held belief in the family that both these men were ordered to partake of the mission or risk being exposed as homosexuals at home and jailed. He was 21.
Eddie was the youngest of the brothers and only 15 when he enlisted. He fought alongside his brother in the 17th during 1915/16 and was injured in the leg in 1917 just before the Battle of Cherisy. He was sent to the 46th Stationary hospital at Etaples and invalided out of the War later that year. He returned home and it was there that the family saga took on an even bigger twist, when Frank went missing for six years and was thought to be amongst the missing presumed dead. Eddie lived into old age but died of heart failure in 1974 aged 74.