IN PICTURES: Meet the eight-year-old boy who was the youngest soldier in WWI
During World War One, hundreds upon thousands of children and teenagers joined the fighting lines of warring countries.
According to British authorities, no less than 250,000 individuals bellow the age of 18 were called to fight for the British army during the first world war.
Among all the children that fought and lost their lives, history recalls a name among the countless, Gavrić Momčilo. At the young age of eight, Momčilo joined the Serbian fighting lines to become WWI’s youngest soldier.
The brave soul was born on May 1, 1906 in a village in Loznica west of Serbia. Momčilo was the eighth sibling between 11 others. In 1914, Austrian forces invaded the boy’s village, burning it down and killing several villagers.
Joining the fight
Among those killed were Momčilo’s parents and seven of his siblings. The little boy miraculously survived and decided to head towards Gučevo mountain to seek help. At his destination, Momčilo met with the Sixth Artillery Division. This is when the boy was accepted into the fighting lines as an orphan.
In mid-August 1914, Momčilo, alongside the Sixth Artillery Division took part in Battle of Cer during which the Serbia reigned victorious over the Austrian army. Soon after that, the eight-year-old received a military uniform tailored especially for him and was distinguished as a Corporal.
In 1915, Serbian forces were defeated and the country fell into the hands of Austrian and German forces. As such, several Serbian soldiers were forced to flee towards Greece using narrow tracts of land, all the while dealing with the cold weather. Momčilo joined the fleeing batch and was later awarded several medals for baring the burden of travel and the rough cold weather.
Momčilo earned a primary level education during his stay in the Greek city of Thessaloniki. Then, soon after the Serbian army recovered, he joined the army once again to take part in the Battle of Kaymakchalan in 1916. During this war, the young soldier met with military commander Živojin Mišić.
Mišić was astounded to see the then 10-year-old boy standing among the Serbian fighting lines. In turn, the commander without hesitation promoted Momčilo to a sergeant’s rank.
During the war, Momčilo suffered from various injuries but that did not stop him from continuing his battles alongside the Serbian army. At the end of WWI, Momčilo witnessed the birth of Yugoslavia.
After the war, the young boy fell in the face of several tragedies. Around 1929, Momčilo was arrested and served two-months in jail after he was accused of fleeing from his military service. At the time, military officials refused to believe stories on his participation in WWI despite proving it using documentation.
Momčilo was also arrested two more times during WWI where Nazi soldiers sent him to a concentration camp near Belgrade. Nearing the end of the second world war, Momčilo was arrested after he was accused by communists of dealing with and working with the Nazis and escaped and ultimate death sentence.
Momčilo lived peacefully until his death in 1993 at the age of 87. To immortalize his memory, the Yugoslavian authorities established a monument in Belgrade in Momčilo’s honor. A street in the city of Loznica was also named after him.
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