New research reveals Portsmouth's youngest soldier to die in the First World War was only 15
PAINSTAKING research has today uncovered the heroic story of a 15-year-old from Portsmouth who is now believed to be the youngest man from the city to die in the First World War.
Sixteen-year-old Henry Rampton had been thought to hold the distinction, but as part of a project by the Pompey Pals’ to research the Battle of the Somme, the centenary of which will be commemorated in Portsmouth on Saturday, the name George Jakes has now emerged.
First World War researcher Alan Laishley from Cosham spent years researching the soldiers from the city who made the ultimate sacrifice for the country.
Working alongside Bob Beech, from the Pompey Pals’ charity, the pair attempted to pin down the history of George, of Kassassin Street, in Eastney.
The teenager was on the list of names of men killed, but with information on him scanty from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the pair turned to the online resource Find My Past.
There they discovered further information on George, suggesting he was just 15 when he was killed charging the German lines.
Bob said: ‘Neither Alan or I could quite believe what were looking at.
‘Until that moment it had been assumed Rampton, a 16-year-old from the 16th Battalion Hampshire Regiment had been the youngest man from Portsmouth to die in the war.
‘It is fair to say we were both quite excited at the discovery, but it’s probably not surprising it has taken so long to uncover.
‘No doubt George lied about his age to be allowed to sign up.
‘We confirmed our findings by obtaining a copy of George’s birth certificate from the registry office, which showed he was born on March 11, 1901.
‘We also had our research independently verified by the eminent Great War author and broadcaster Richard Van Emden.’
Gallant George went into battle on September 15, 1916 in the battle of the Somme, serving the in 15th Battalion – the second Pompey Pals’ unit – who were engaged on an attack on Flers.
‘This battle was the first time in history tanks were used,’ added Beech.
It is also known George’s mother Lena died August 1, 1914, a few days before war broke out, and his father Harry, a former Royal Marine, died in 1915.
Mr Beech added: ‘Given he’d lost both parents in such a short space of time, it’s perhaps no wonder George decided he didn’t have much to stay in Portsmouth for.
‘He has no known grave but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.’
George had three older brothers who served during the war. Edwin was killed in October 1917, aged 19, while serving with the Somerset Light Infantry. Whereas Charles was in the Royal Navy and Thomas followed his father in to the Royal Marines.
The Pompey Pals charity is organising a commemoration of the battle of the Somme in the city this Saturday.
The public event will take place in Guildhall Square, Portsmouth, starting at 10am.
There will be a pop-up museum with a display organised by the charity and also music from the Hampshire Constabulary Band and the Portsmouth Military Wives’ Choir.
At 10.50am the Royal British Legion and various armed forces’ associations will march into the square and the formal part of the event will start at 11am, with speeches and the wreath-laying ceremony.
The revelation comes as Portsmouth today prepares to honour all the civilians killed during the Blitz in the Second World War.