Wrexham actor stunned as he uncovers great grandad's war secret

Published date: 05 March 2014 |
Published by: Alex Watt
Read more articles by Alex Watt


AN actor was “stunned” to discover his great grandfather was the youngest soldier proved to have served in First World War.

Alastair Goodman, 26, of Bentley Road, Wrexham, researched his family history after being cast in a production of The Accrington Pals to mark the centenary year of the start of the First World War.

He was shocked to find his great grandfather Edward Barnett enlisted in the Army when he was just 13 years-old.

The former Dinas Bran pupil said: “The director, Rachel Morris, said she wanted everyone to find someone to have in your head when you’re getting to terms with your character and get an idea of what the mood was like at the time. I spoke to my nan and she said her dad had fought in the First World War but faked his age.

“I figured he must have been 17 because I’d heard of people faking their ages to get in before.

“I did some research and found out he was a little cult celebrity because he was the youngest soldier to have been proved to serve in the First World War at 13.”

Edward Barnett, of Salford, first volunteered in May 1915 but was taken out within a week after the regiment discovered his real age. He re-enlisted the next day.

Edward continued to evade the age checks and was sent to France to join the 20th Manchester Regiment in December 1915 at the age of 13, making him the youngest soldier proved to have served on the Western Front.

Edward lasted four months, seeing action in Loos, St Eloi, and Albert, before his age was discovered and he was sent home and discharged.

Mr Goodman added: “I was absolutely stunned when I first found out. I was just sat there with a big smile on my face.

“Then after being stunned and really proud you think how different things could have been if he hadn’t been brought back after four months.”

In Llangollen Twenty Club Amateur Players’ production of The Accrington Pals, Mr Goodman plays Ralph, a young soldier who volunteers for war.

Mr Goodman said: “He has a very gung-ho attitude. His first line in the play, he starts quoting Kitchener’s poster and he thinks it’s a macho thing, so he was obviously going up a bit clueless as well. His attitude in act two completely changes when he’s actually out there in France; he realises what he’s got himself in to and how awful it is.

“So I can try and get into my head what was going through my great granddad’s head at the time, why it was such an appealing thing, because this character makes it sound like it’s going to be a big holiday.

“I’ve always wanted to go and look at the family history and never got round to it. I’m really glad this came up. That’s why we’re doing the play, 100 years, the club picked it because of that.

“It’s brilliant that the director gave me a reason to go and do some proper research. I’m going to do way more now.”

l The Accrington Pals will be presented at Llangollen Town Hall on March 6, 7 and 8.

Doors open at 7pm and the show starts at 7.30pm. Tickets are £6 (£5 concessions) from Courtyard Books, Gwyn Davies Butchers, Special Thoughts Card Shop, or by calling Mair Bowen on 01978 822759.

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