The Youngest Soldier

On 3 November 2018, SoundStorm took part in ‘Lest We Forget’, the national youth commemoration to mark 100 years since the end of World War 1, at the Genting Arena, Birmingham NEC. The project featured over 2000 young people from across Britain, performing to an audience of over 5000 members of the public.

Parkstone Grammar School, Poole High School and Ocean Academy all took part from our Music Education Hub. A highlight was their performance of ‘The Youngest Soldier’, a piece composed by Parkstone students alongside Bath Philharmonia’s Creative Learning Team, which remembered Sidney Lewis, Britain’s youngest serving soldier in the First World War. Sidney enlisted under-age and fought when only 12 years old, before being found out and sent home when 13. Sidney’s son, Colin, lives in Poole, and came to see the show, as well as advising us on his Dad’s story. The piece had originally been devised for an earlier concert at Bournemouth International Centre in March 2015. Its lyrics focus upon the ancient hornbeam tree that survived the Battle of Delville Wood in the Somme, the only tree that remained standing, where Sidney fought and miraculously survived. Others were not so lucky; over 20000 young men from both sides were killed in action.

As well as the singers from Parkstone Grammar, two young actors from Poole High School play Sidney Lewis and “The Unknown Soldier”. All are featured here. Bath Philharmonia Musical Director, Jason Thornton, directed the piece, and musicians featured on this film come from Bath Philharmonia, The Ealing Youth Orchestra, the Birmingham Schools Symphony Orchestra and two talented young trumpeters from Sandwell Music and Arts Service Youth Brass Band.

Thanks to all who took part and made the project possible, particularly Dr Ron Dawson, the Creative Director and driving force behind the ‘Lest We Forget concert’, who devoted 3 years of his life raising funds and making it happen; Clare Edwards, who drew all the different strands together leading up to, and on, the day; and especially to all the staff and students from our featured schools.

We are most grateful to Colin Lewis and the Lewis family for allowing us to use Sidney’s story as inspiration, and the Imperial War Museum for initial help and permissions. Thanks also to Heritage Lottery Fund for funding the first Sidney Lewis project; plus all additional funders of the wider concert – Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government; Arts Council England; ABRSM; and Birmingham Services for Education

Here is a film directed by Jordi Robert (Hands On Media) of the performance of ‘The Youngest Soldier’ plus a few other highlights from the day.