Artist's description:

"War's Rest" - Boy Soldier of the Great War by Cheryl Portlock
Between 1914 and 1918 as many as 250,000 underage boys illegally enlisted to serve their country in the British army. This painting is the story of just one such boy, Jack, a young fourteen year old who struggled with the horrors he had experienced and yearned to return to his home.

At the outbreak of war the British Army had 700 000 available men whilst Germany’s army was over 3.7 million. When a campaign for volunteers was launched, thousands answered the call to fight. Jack is just one underage soldier who lied about his age and who joined the patriotic rush to fight the Germans. It is estimated that 30 000 who fought alongside the adults on the front line were killed.
The conflict in World War 1 was the most brutal in history and for many the horror and extreme stress proved too much. Hundreds were physically and mentally unable to cope with the shocking scenes they had witnessed resulting in severe psychological trauma. Post traumatic stress disorder or shell shock as it was then called is a condition making the lives of soldiers a veritable hell. Symptoms such as erratic behaviour, incapacity to understand even simple things, unconsciousness, obsessive painful thoughts, hallucinations, insomnia, terrifying nightmares, memory loss and convulsive fit-like movements or catatonia meant these soldiers were not fit to be at the front line.

Despite the fact that he was still officially too young to be in his regiment, Jack was executed by firing squad on the grounds of desertion. This form of military justice was intended both as punishment and a deterrent to others. Soldiers were expected to fight to the death for their king and country and face it like men. Anyone over the age of 14 was deemed legally responsible for his actions and army regulations provided no immunity from military law for an underage soldier. British and Commonwealth military command executed 306 of its own men during the Great War. These were men suffering from extreme stress and in stages of mental collapse.

Young boys going to war has a very real association for me. Following the death of my grandfather in a Plymouth bombing of 1941, my father too, lied about his age in order to sign up in the Second World War. He was just sixteen and fervent to avenge not only the death of his father but our family members who had been killed in the Great War.
Over a hundred years has passed hsince the beginning of the Great War and the devastation of Europe and the world. In commemoration and honour of all who lost their lives, especially those young boys who so bravely answered the call to fight, I have painted “War’s Rest”. I leave its interpretation up to the viewer inviting them to pause for a moment and think about those boy soldiers.

Materials used:

Acrylic on canvas

War's Rest (2014)


  • Artwork description
  • Returns and refunds
    We want you to love your art! If you are not completely satisfied with your purchase you can return it free within 14 days, no questions asked. Learn more

This artwork is sold by Cheryl Portlock from United Kingdom

Would you like 10% off?