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    [size=18pt]The Worlds youngest corporal[/size]

    Over nine decades ago WW1 ended, a war that a very young soldier called Momčilo Gavrić took part. Momčilo was the youngest soldier in all of the armies of the WW1. He was born in Trbušnici a village near Loznica under the mountain Gučevo in Serbia. It is recorded that Momčilo at the start of WW1 didn't even turn 8. He was the eight child of his father Alimpije and mother Jelena, back them it was pride to have many children, shame its not so today.


    In the august of 1914, Austro-Hungarian soldier did massive slaughters against civilian population of Serbia. On an early sunrise at the start of august 1914, drunken soldiers killed Momčilo's father and mother, his three sisters and four brothers. Little Momčilo was outside when it happened and when he saw what took place he ran with all his speed trough the forest on to the mountain Gučevo. There he came upon the post of Sixt artillery regiment of Drina division which was commanded by major Stevan Tucović, brother of famous hero Dimitrije Tucović. Small Milan fell to his knees, hugged his boots and cried out "Mister, they killed everything I had…" Major Tucaković asked him "Do you know how to throw bombs"? He replied he only threw rocks. Major then removed one bomb from his holster and showed him how it was done. Then he lined up his soldiers and asked them "Who wants to go tonight and revenge Momčilo's parents, brothers and sisters?"

    The whole regiment stepped forward. Tucović selected a soldier from Zlatibor, Miloš Mišović. At sundown Mišović and young Momčilo went down and found drunken soldiers in front of the house of Gavrić famili, drinking and having a laugh. Mišović quickly threw two bombs at them and on that night young Momčilo became a fighter of the Serbian army, an adopted  child of the sixth artillery regiment of Drina division. Tucović ordered his soldiers to let the small Gavrić fire the cannon three times, every day, so he could revenge his brothers and sisters.


    First years of the war, all Austrian attacks were pushed back, some ground was even taken in Bosnia and Hercegovina but then German Kaiser had enough and sent German divisions to aid the Austrians. As Serbian forces prepared for this final battle, news of Bulgaria joining the attackers reached Serb leadership. This was a disaster, poorly equipped and exhausted Serbian troops were all on the northern outposts. Bulgarian forces would strike from the rear and all would be lost. So in an act of desperation it was decided to pull back the entire Serbian military force together with state apparatus and some civilian population to Greece trough Albania. And so that long epic journey began.

    In the retreat Miloš Mišović took Momčilo under his care. In Podgorica (capital of Montenegro), with the last money he had he bought him a wreath with twelve places. Then he  told him "Son, if you want to stay alive, every day you will only eat one fish. Remember it well, only one if you want to survive".  Momčilo did what he was told but already as they passed Skadar the fish were all gone. Mišović who was a quite large man, started losing strength. One night as they were warming up next to the fire he said to Momčilo "Son, I'm afraid I wont be able to move on. Grab my coat and I will drag you until there is any strength left in me… If I fall don't come closer to me just walk on". So he dragged small Momčilo, stumbling. Hunger and winter broke the strong man. He couldn't go on,  he fell in the white snow. Momčilo stopped and gave him his hand. "No, keep going, Momčilo, don't mind me…" But Momčilo sat down next to his side, curled up and told him "Sir Mišo, I wont go further… I want to die with you". A child to die? Seen that Miloš gathered what was left of his strength and resolve, stood up and started moving. Somehow they managed to stay alive for those last 10 kilometers to the dockyard. Later on Korfu young Momčilo was given a star on each of his shoulders… And so the nine year old Momčilo Gavrić became the youngest corporal in the World!

    Young Momčilo walked trough whole Serbia and Albania with his regiment and made it to Korfu, enduring as a nine year old an ordeal that many adults did not. Later he took part in the braking of Thessalonica front that decided the war. There he was shot and wounded. Vojvoda Živojin Mišić himself promoted him to sub seargent. While waiting the breach of the Thessalonica front and return to Serbia, he got litterete. After the war he went to England, where he finished gymnazium and came back to Belgrade in 1921. Two photos of him as a child soldier can be seen in the standing presentation of the Jadar museum in Loznica.


    He lived in Belgrade up to his natural death in 1993. His war destiny is unique in the World and he deserves to be remembered by the new generations. Sadly to this day, no place, street or anything wears his name. Not even in his hometown of Loznica. The youngest corporal in the world is sadly and undeservedly forgoten.



    What did he do after the war?



    He continued to have a normal life, had a family and stayed in the Army.  Here are some pictures of his life:

    Momčilo and his bride in 1939.

    Momčilo, wife and sons.

    Momčilo and his sons.

    Momčilo paying tribute to his fallen comrades on Korfu.



    You might also be interested in 'The Little Sergeant'.

    I have included an account of him extracted from 'With Serbia into Exile' by Fortier Jones an American Journalist who made the also made the trip through the mountains to Corfu wih a contingent of British nurses

    Our train was to leave at seven, but it did not go until nearly midnight. In the meantime we had the honor of making the very interesting acquaintance of the "Little Sergeant," the youngest officer, as well as the youngest soldier, in the Serbian army. He is—or, now, perhaps was—a real sergeant. On his diminutive soldier's coat he wore three gold stars, and in lieu of a sword he carried an Austrian bayonet, and in lieu of a rifle a Russian cavalry carbine. A full-sized, well-filled cartridge-belt was slung over his shoulders, because it would easily have encircled his baby waist three times. He was ten years old, and had been in the service for "a long time." He had asked and obtained a leave to go home just before all the trouble began, and now he was answering the hurried summons sent out to all soldiers on leave to return to their regiments at once. His home was three days' walk from Valjevo, the nearest railway point, and he had walked the whole way alone; but he was late, and was afraid of exceeding the time allowed for soldiers to return.
    He said if he reached his station too late, he "would be shot as a deserter, and rightly so." Then his regiment "would be disgraced." He had no money, but did not need any. At the military stations he demanded his loaf of bread as a Serbske vrenik, and got it. As for sleeping, well, any cafe-owner would not refuse a Serbian soldier the hospitality of his floor. Our train showed no signs of departing, so we took him into the town and gave him dinner at the hotel. He ate tremendously, but seriously, preoccupied, as a man would have been, and at times discussing military affairs. Despite all his efforts, we detected a slight limp, and found his small feet in a frightful condition. His opanki had not fitted well and were nearly worn out. Blisters and stone-bruises were in great evidence. To his boundless, but unexpressed, delight, we were able to give him a new pair. Every one plied him with questions, which he answered slowly, taking great care as to his words. Whom had he left at home? Why, his mother and little sister, who was five years older than himself. His father and brother were in the army.
    When he went home on leave he was able to cut wood and bring water, see to the prune-trees and feed the pigs; but most of the time the women had to do this, which was very bad. But what could one do? His country was at war, and that meant that men must fight. Soon, though, when his own regiment, with which none other could compare, had administered a much-needed thrashing to the Suabas, he would return home and help build up the farm. Yes, his father was a soldier of the line in his regiment, the bravest man in the regiment. He himself had shot well, and had been cautious in the trenches, and so had been promoted above his father, who now, according to military discipline, had to salute his son. But he never allowed this; he always forestalled his father, and at the same time conserved discipline by seizing the hand that would have saluted and kissing it. His regiment was somewhere near Semendria, but exactly where he did not care to say, because there were spies all about — this with a wary glance at me.
    As we waited in the smoky little station, crowded with refugees, he stood as straight as an arrow before the seated ladies, refusing a seat. He was a Serbske vrenik with a party of civilians who had been kind to him, and while men of that party had to stand, he would not sit. Blisters and bruises might go whence they came, to the devil. But as it grew late, an enemy he could not conquer attacked him. He had risen at four that morning, and it was now ten at night. With the tactfulness born of long years of diplomatic life in European capitals, Mme. Christitch quietly made room on the bench beside her, which a moment later the "Little Sergeant" unconsciously filled. Almost at once his head sank to her lap, his hands sought hers, and a last, convincing, incontestable proof that he was a real Serbske vrenik was given: a snore, loud, resonant, manly, broke on the watching crowd.
    Two hours later, when our train whistled, I gathered up a sergeant of the Serbian army, carbine, ammunition, sword, knapsack, and all, and carried him without resistance to the freight-truck in which we were to travel, and laid him, covered with my blankets, on a soft bale of clothing. I hope that if ever in the distant future I shall so hold a boy more closely akin to me, I can be as proud of my burden as I was that night. Shortly before our ways parted next day we asked him if he was not afraid to go back to the trenches. "A man does not die a hundred times," he replied quietly. I almost find myself hoping that in the horrible carnage which occurred at Semendria a few days later a bullet found the "Little Sergeant" after some momentary victory, some gallant charge of his beloved regiment. Life had been so simple for him! His country was at war; she could not be wrong; all true men must fight. And he had known her only in glorious victory. "Sbogum, Americanske braat" ("Good-by, American brother"), he murmured when we separated.

    Jones, Fortier. With Serbia into exile; an American's adventures with the army that cannot die.



    Forgot to say that there is also a photo of him in the book.



    Wow cool. Thx for the share… Wonder how many more other kids shared there faith… On a side note, a really good book in english I can suggest to you is called "Serbs – The guardians of the gate" from the Oxford library… Here is a direct link: http://www.electricscotland.com/history/serbia/guardiansofgateh00laffuoft.pdf



    Thanks for the link. I have installed the  book on my Kindle and briefly scanned it. I see that the foreword is by Treaubridge – an English vice admiral who had been in charge of dealing with the 'monitors' which shelled Belgrade from the Danube. I have read his diary of the retreat through the mountains which was written at the time from notes made actually on the journey – interesting and a little controversial – but judging by his foreword to this book – he seems to have modified some of his more inflammatory opinions.
    I'm looking forward to reading the book properly, particularly the section on Corfu.

    I don't know if you've read the thread I started 'The 1915 retreat through the Albanian and Montenegran mountains' but if you know of any material written by Serbians on the subject but in English I would love to know.

    Re the numbers of boys:- 30,000 boys too young for the army made the awful journey. 15,000 died in the mountains. 7,000 arrived at the coast, but on Vido, they were so weakened that they were dying at the rate of 100 a day. It is estimated that a little under 5,000 survived.

    Forgive me if I am writing a load of stuff you are already familiar with but if you are interested, I have included below, a heartrending passage from 'Flight in Winter' by John Clinton Adams.

    The effect of the country was more pronounced upon those who were younger and weaker. South of Durazzo, originally around Elbasan, were about 10,000 Serbian boys between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, dignified by the name of "Reserve Troops." Some had been students at military academies, others had been called up in the last levy, the rest had been taken from their homes by the retreating army to save them from enemy internment camps. They had crossed Albania with the Timok Army. On December 21 they were ordered by the High Command to march from Elbasan to Valona, the Italian naval base in South Albania. From there the Italians would convey them to Bizerta. Ignorant of the region, poorly dressed and hungry, the boys plodded through marshes and over mountains, crossing the Shkumbi and Semeni rivers. The distance to be covered was about 70 miles. Many of the little boys died before the village of Fieri was reached, more than half-way to Valona. Then the Italian commander at Valona forbade them to come any nearer. They stayed near the wretched village without shelter, tents, blankets or regular nourishment. They did not have the toughness of the older men; they died easily. On a single day, January 5, fifty-five of them perished.

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