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Objects and Stories – The Boy Buglers

The Boy Buglers

The minimum enlistment age for men joining the Army in the Great War was officially 19 years. Previously, the Army had addressed the problem of under-age soldiers in regular battalions by formally accepting them in non-combat roles such as buglers in the rank of Boy until they attained their official enlistment age.

9557 Bugler Levi Alexander Evetts

 Levi Alexander was the eldest son of No.172 Colour Serjeant Levi Evetts, who served in the Oxfordshire Light Infantry from 1879 until 1899. Young Levi was born at High Wycombe in 1897 joining the Regiment as a Boy in November 1911 at the age of 14. His younger brother James followed a year later. Both served as Boys with the 2nd Battalion at Aldershot before the Great War. Upon reaching 19 years, Levi Evetts joined his comrades in the 2nd Battalion, The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, in France and was killed shortly after during the attack on the Redan Ridge. The then Private Evetts has no known grave but is honoured and remembered by his name being inscribed on theThiepval War Memorial to the Missing.

9775 Bugler James William Evetts

James William Evetts was born at High Wycombe in 1898, the second son of Levi and Effie Evetts. He joined his Brother as a Bugler in October 1912. Because of his age, he was posted to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion in Portsmouth when the 2nd deployed to France in August 1914. When he reached the age of 19, in November 1917, he was sent to the Western Front. Poignantly he arrived on the 12 month anniversary of his Brother’s death. James  survived the terrible battles still to come, subsequently transferred into the Irish Guards in 1919 and lived into old age.

The Attack on the Redan Ridge 13th November, 1916

The Redan Ridge was an important German held strong point in the northern sector of the Somme battlefield in France. Dominance of the highpoint of the spur gave the victor a clear view of their own and their enemy’s positions so this small patch of ground was desperately and repeatedly fought over with many casualties on both sides before and after the opening of the Battle of the Somme on the 1st of July. The whole ridge was blown into pits and craters from twenty to fifty feet deep and sometimes fifty yards long as it was mined, counter-mined and re-mined for many weeks.
Following a very wet October, the weather improved in early November affording the commander of the newly named 5th Army, General Hubert Gough, an opportunity to attack the Germans in the sector including trying to take the Redan Ridge before winter set in.
The 2nd Battalion, The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (Oxf. & Bucks. Light Infantry) followed in support of the 24th Battalion, The Royal Fusiliers who attacked the first line of enemy trenches on the ridge at 5.45 AM on the 13th November. Facing them were tough and experienced men recruited from the mining and industrial areas of Upper Silesia in today’s Poland who were expected to and did fight well. The Fusiliers followed within 20 yards of a rolling artillery barrage at a walking pace, quickly clearing the enemy from the first trench. The Oxf. & Bucks. Light Infantry passed through the 24th to attack the trench systems to the east but found they faced a significant enemy presence. After very heavy hand-to- hand fighting they found their flanks were exposed and they were forced to retire. The operation had been a limited success with the first trench held at a cost to the Battalion of 13 officers and 235 other ranks, including 10 dead, 149 wounded and 76 missing. Hard fighting by other British troops was to come in the next few days to consolidate the gains made by the Fusiliers and the Light Infantrymen.

With the benefit of hindsight in knowing the outcome and by considering the ultimate futility of the Great War, it has become historically fashionable of late to think of the soldiers on the front line as victims. Such thoughts would have been alien to the young infantrymen waiting in absolute terror at the bottom of the sodden trenches for the sound of their officer’s whistle on that day in mid-November, 1916.
None would have had any illusions of what they would face in no man’s land and in the enemy trenches but when the call came they, including young Levi Evetts, climbed the ladders to face and to fight their country’s enemies. We should continue to mourn their loss and for what they might have become but we should also for evermore remember and honour them for they did what was asked of them without hesitation.


Levi and James were the sons of Colour Serjeant Levi Evetts, who served in the Oxfordshire Light Infantry from 1879 until 1899 and his young Wife, Effie. Levi was born at High Wycombe in 1897, joining the Regiment as a Boy in November 1911 at the age of 14 with James following a year later.

You can only imagine our delight when local resident Ann Edmonds, the Great Granddaughter of Effie, contacted the Museum. Effie’s ancestors emigrated to America in the 17th Century with one branch moving to Nova Scotia in the 18th Century. Effie, who Ann actually met, was from this branch coming to England in 1885 to marry Colour Serjeant Evetts and to raise a family.


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