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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Child soldiers

The Observer reports that Hurricane Katrina may have released armed dolphins into the Gulf of Mexico. Dolphins have been trained to go on attack and kill missions since the Cold War and have even been used to detect underwater mines in Iraq. Understandably this is not popular with animal rights groups and I have to agree with them. Dolphins are as clever as we are but they can not make a consenting choice about their participation in war. It makes me think of the recruitment of child soldiers. Amnesty International's website about it is here.

Children have been involved in warfare throughout history. For many centuries soldiers were followed from battle to battle by their wives, sons and daughters. Children also worked directly alongside the soldiers as drummer boys and equipment carriers. During the American Civil war popular songs called ballads were written about the battles. Shiloh was remembered with a ballad about a drummer boy who died on the battlefield.

On Shiloh's dark and blood ground, the dead and wounded lay.

Amongst them was a drummer boy, that beat the drum that day.

A wounded soldier raised him up, His drum was by his side.

He clasped his hands and raised his eyes and prayed before he died:

Look down upon the battle field, Oh Thou, our Heav'nly friend,

Have mercy on our sinful souls. The soldiers cried, "Amen."

For gather'd round a little group, Each brave man knelt and cried.

They listen'd to the drummer boy who prayed before he died.


"Oh Mother!" said the dying boy, "Look down from Heav'n on me.

"Receive me to thy fond embrace, Oh take me home to thee.

I've loved my country as my God, To serve them both I've tried."

He smiled, shook hands. Death seized the boy who prayed before he died.


Each soldier wept then like a child, Stout hearts were they and brave.

They wrote upon a simple board these words "This is a guide

To those who mourn the drummer boy who prayed before he died."


This sad ballad is about a young British drummer boy who died at the battle of Waterloo in 1815.

In 1944 children played an important role in the Warsaw uprising. The capital of Poland had been occupied by the Germans since the beginning of the second world war in 1939. On 1st August 1944 the inhabitants of Warsaw rose against the Germans in an attempt to reclaim their city. The uprising lasted for two months until the Poles were forced to surrender on 2nd October. At least 150, 000 civilians were killed. This site explains how Polish boy and girl scouts organised a postal service around the city so that people could communicate with each other.

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