But in 1914, that is exactly what William Cecil ‘Billie’ Tickle did. At just 15 – officially three years too young to enlist – he lied about his age and joined the British Army at the start of the First World War.
Originating from Hornsey in Middlesex, he was just an ordinary teenager but found himself in 9th Battallion, Essex Regiment, fighting alongside countless young soldiers like himself. His troop was thrust into France the following spring after training, and straight in the midst of heavy battle.
Against all odds, Private Tickle made it through until 1916 and the Battle of the Somme. On 3rd July 1916, Private 13510 Tickle was killed in action at Ovillers, and his body never found. But not before he sent a photo of himself in his uniform back home to his mother…
His mother’s handwritten note underneath describes him as ‘One of the very best.’ Billy Boy’s story is not exceptional, there are plenty more stories like his. But little did he know that one hundred years later that very photograph would be chosen by Royal Mail to feature on an official British 1st Class postage stamp.
The smiling portrait of Private Tickle appears alongside five other stamps in Royal Mail’s ‘Great War’ Issue, which is being released on Monday 28th July to coincide with the Centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.
These stamps are now available to own on a limited edition Silver Proof Coin Cover.
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