Boy lied about his age to be one of the first to sign up for World War One

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As the poignant 100th anniversary for the start of World War One approaches in August, many people have been looking into their own family history in a bid to personalise the horrors of the conflict.

One such person is John Atterton, who lost two great uncles in the war.

Stuart John Webb and his brother Bernard Vincent Webb were the sons of George Webb, a dentist of Westbourne Road, Luton, and his wife Elizabeth.

Bernard was just 17 when he enlisted with the Bedfordshire Regiment in September 1914. He told the recruiting officer he was 19!

He was wounded at Gallipoli on the Ottoman Peninsula just over a year later with a gun shot wound to the hand, and was then transferred to the Munster Fusiliers.

After recovering from his wounds he subsequently transferred to the Machine Gun Corps and was killed in action in May 1918 aged 20 having risen to the rank of substantive sergeant.

His grave at Caestre in France, is close to where he died.

His brother Stuart John was 21 when he was conscripted into the Northamptonshire Regiment in 1916 and was posted to France in 1917 where he was almost immediately transferred to the Manchester Regiment.

He was wounded in action on October 8 1917, and was transferred to the military hospital at Etaple where a few days later he succumbed to his wounds. He is buried at Etaple cemetery.

John has been looking into his family history around that time and has come up with an interesting mystery.

Great uncle Stuart never married as far as the family knew but on his attestation papers when he signed up he stated he had a wife.

In his photo he wears a gold ring on his wedding finger and when his personal effects were returned to his mother the ring and a lock of hair was included.

“So was there a young lady somewhere in Luton also mourning his death?” asked John.

John’s grandfather George, their elder brother, who was also born in Luton, enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps (TA) before the war had started and after the outbreak was posted to Mesopotamia.

He survived the conflict but failed to find work in Luton after the war had ended. He re-enlisted in the Royal Engineers and served as a regular soldier.

He was posted to France in 1939 as part of the British Expeditionary Force but was invalided out of the army in 1940, having survived action in both world wars.

John’s mother was born in Dallow Road in Luton, but subsequently moved around the country with his grandparents to various army locations.

>The 1914-18 war had a huge impact on the country both at home and abroad.

Millions of men and women were involved in the conflict and we’d like to hear the stories of the impact on your families.

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