§ MR. FLAVIN (Kerry, N.)
I beg to. ask the Under Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that a boy 781 named Patrick Walsh, whose regimental number is 6,106, enlisted in the 1st Battalion Royal Minister Fusiliers in October, 1898, and that prior to his last enlistment he joined the Army, but was discharged in March, 1898, being then under fourteen years of ago; whether he can state if Patrick Walsh is now serving as a soldier in South Africa; and whether, seeing that he is now only sixteen years old, his immediate discharge from the Army will be granted in accordance with the request of his parents.
§ *MR. WYNDHAM
The facts are as stated by the hon. Member. When they were made known to the War Office last November a letter was sent to the General Officer commanding the Cork district, in which his attention was called to the case, and explanations from the officers concerned were demanded. These explanations were received. The Approving Officer expresses unqualified regret, and states in extenuation that Private Walsh when enlisted presented the appearance of maturity. He further states that he has often had occasion to question the correctness of birth certificates, and has even been in correspondence with the Registrar General in Ireland on the subject. The medical officer is so strongly of the same opinion with regard to the maturity of the youth the examined that he believes personation has taken place. The recruiting officer admits the possibility of error, and points out that in 1899 500 recruits were accepted and 300 rejected in his district, and that Walsh's name is a very common one in Listowel, where he was enlisted. It is an unsatisfactory case The boy seems to have been determined to enter the Army, and as he is now in South Africa it is impossible to discharge him before the end of the war; but his father has been been directed to apply again as soon as the war is over.
§ MR. FLAVIN
Has a boy fourteen years of age arrived at maturity for war purposes? Why was information refused to his parents whop they applied at the War Office?
§ *MR. WYNDHAM
The question raises the points with which I have attempted to deal. The boy's height, weight, and chest measurement were all abnormal, so that it was easy to mistake his age.