Boy Soldiers on the Roll of Honour
The Australian Army's enlistment age was 21 years or 18 years with the permission of a parent or guardian. Although boys could enlist as buglers many gave false ages in order to join as soldiers. Their numbers are impossible to determine.
Enlistment of boys was normal practice for the Navy and several died on service during the First World War. Five of those who qualify for the Memorial's Roll of Honour were serving on the Sydney-based training ship HMAS Tingira.
The following 'boy soldiers' and 'boy sailors' have been identified among the 61,000 names on the Roll of Honour for the First World War.
Private James Charles ('Jim') Martin is the best known and the youngest, 14 years 9 months old when he died at Gallipoli.
Boy 2nd Class Reginald Keyth Cooper (4452, HMAS Tingira) was born on 9 February 1900 in Alberton, SA. He died on 1 March 1915, aged 15 years, only two months after enlisting. He is buried in the Rookwood Necropolis, Sydney.
Boy 2nd Class Leslie William Henry Earl (6902, HMAS Tingira), of Melbourne, enlisted in August 1918. He was accidentally drowned in Sydney Harbour on 16 March 1919, aged 15 years 8 months. He is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial, UK.
John Auguste Emile Harris (2251, 2nd Battalion) from Waverley, Sydney, was a clerk before the war. He claimed to be 18 years old when he enlisted in June 1915. He was killed in action at Lone Pine, Gallipoli, on 8 August 1915, and is buried in Lone Pine Cemetery. In the two months of his service he had been promoted to Lance Corporal. After the war his father wrote that John was 15 years 10 months old at the time of his death.
Private Stanley John Adams (5027, 4th Battalion), from Randwick, Sydney, was a plumber before the war. He claimed to be 18 years 1 month old when he enlisted in January 1916. Stanley was killed by a shell at Mouquet Farm, France, on 16 August 1916. He was buried between Mouquet Farm and Pozières but the grave could not be located after the war. His name is recorded on the Australian Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux. His father later wrote that Stanley was 16 years old when he died. Stanley's brother, Corporal J.W. Adams of the 1st Battalion, served in both Gallipoli and France.
Private Edward Sydney Cawe (2342, 20th Battalion), from Unanderra, NSW, had been a railway porter. He was killed in action at Pozières, France, on 26 July 1916, one year to the day after his enlistment. He had claimed to be 18 years 1 month old. Edward's grave could not be found after the war; he is remembered on the Australian Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux. Edward's aunt and uncle (his adoptive parents) later wrote that he was 16 years old when he died.
Boy 2nd Class Clifton Mills (6991, HMAS Tingira) was born 9 August 1903 in Bendigo, Victoria. He enlisted shortly before the Armistice with Germany. He died from diphtheria on 2 September 1919, aged 16 years 1 month, and is buried in the Rookwood Necropolis, Sydney.
Boy 2nd Class Charles William Fellows (6802, HMAS Tingira) was born on 7 January 1903 in Gunbower, Victoria. He died of accidental drowning on 16 March 1919, aged 16 years 2 months. He is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial, UK.
Private Roy Henderson Robertson (1765, 20th Battalion), was a shop assistant from the Illawarra region. He enlisted in June 1915, claiming to be 18 years old. He was killed in action at Russell's Top, Gallipoli, on 7 November. His name is recorded on a memorial at Walker's Ridge Cemetery, Gallipoli. After the war his brother, James L. Robertson, who had served with the 45th Battalion, wrote that Roy was 16 years 4 months when he died.
Private Albert Charles Baden Govers (79, 1st Battalion), from Copeton, NSW, had been a station-hand. He enlisted in February 1916, giving his age as18 years 1 month. He was listed as missing in action at Flers, France, on 5 November 1916, later confirmed to have been killed. He is buried at Grevillers British Cemetery, France. After the war his mother recorded that Albert was 15 when he enlisted, and 16 years 4 months old when he died.
Boy 1st Class Ronald Rothsay Wright (4459, HMAS Sydney) was born on 2 June 1900, at Peterhead, SA. He was killed during a violent storm off the coast of Norway on 21 December 1916. He was aged 16 years 6 months, and is buried at the Dalmeny and Queensferry Cemetery, Scotland.
Private Walter Sampson Wakeley (20th Battalion, no service number allotted), from Canley Vale, NSW, died of pneumonia at Liverpool Camp, NSW, on 29 July 1915, before his unit left for service overseas. He is buried in Liverpool Cemetery. His father wrote that his son was 16 years and 6 months at the time of his death. Walter's brother Daniel Wakeley of the 14th Field Ambulance was awarded a Military Medal for bravery at Foucaucourt, France, in 1918.
Boy 2nd Class Reginald William Thompson (6793, HMAS Tingira) was born in Staffordshire, England, on 18 May 1902. He enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy in August 1918 but died from accidental suffocation only five months later, on 14 January 1919, aged 16 years 7 months. He is buried at the Point Clare General Cemetery, NSW.
Private Alexander Joseph Hearn (1451, 4th Battalion), from Campsie, NSW, was a tailor's apprentice before the war. He claimed to be 21 when he enlisted. He received bullet wounds to the chest at Gallipoli on 10 May 1915. Sent to the 4th London General Hospital, he died on 4 August 1915. He is buried in the Byker and Heaton Cemetery at Newcastle-on-Tyne. Joseph had been born in Newcastle-on-Tyne and come to Australia as a 15 year-old. His mother, writing after the war, said that he was 16 years and 8 months when he died. She thought that he was the youngest soldier to leave with a New South Wales unit.
Private Edward Claude Perkins (4503, 17th Battalion), a carpenter from Sydney, claimed to be 21 years 1 month old when he enlisted in January 1916. He was killed by shell fire near High Wood on the Somme, France, on 8 November 1916. He is buried in the AIF Burial Ground at Flers. His mother wrote that he was 16 years 8 months old when he died.
Boy 1st Class Frank David Tavender (5729, HMAS Sydney) was born on 27 April 1901 in Angaston, SA. He died from a head injury on 26 January 1918, aged 16 years 8 months, while his ship was on service at Scapa Flow. He is buried at the Lyness Royal Naval Cemetery, Orkney.
Private John Lancelot Andrews (3346, 54th Battalion), a clerk from Taree, NSW, who claimed to be 18 and 11 months on enlistment in February 1916. He arrived on the Western Front in the first week of August 1917, and was a member of the 54th Battalion Lewis gun section. He was killed in action by German artillery in a support line at Polygon Wood on 26 September 1917, aged just 16 years and 8 months.
Private Gilbert Harry Tripney (1745, 48th Battalion), from Peterborough, SA, was an electrical apprentice before the war. He enlisted in March 1916, giving his age as 18 years 1 month. Gilbert was killed in action at Vierstraat, Belgium, on 16 October 1916. He is buried in Ridge Wood Military Cemetery, Belgium. His father wrote after the war that his son was 16 years and 10 months old at the time of his death, and noted that he had been a champion rifle shot.
Private George Yendle (2698, 59th Battalion), from Balaclava, Melbourne, worked as a tinsmith before the war. He enlisted in June 1915, claiming to be 18 years 9 months old. George served with the 7th Battalion for the last month of the Gallipoli campaign. He transferred to the new 59th Battalion but was killed in its first significant action, at Fromelles, France, on 19 July 1916. His body could not be found after the battle, nor has it been identified in the mass graves discovered in 2008. His name is recorded at VC Corner Australian Memorial. George's older brother Albert (2741, 58th Battalion) was also killed during the war and is also without any known grave. After the war their mother wrote that George was 16 years and 11 months old when he died.
Ordinary Seaman Leslie Raymond Arthur Moore (4875) was from Williamstown, Victoria. In April 1918 his ship, HMAS Torrens, was sent to rescue the crew of a damaged Italian destroyer, Benetto Cairoli, in the Adriatic Sea. Leslie was swept overboard in heavy seas. He was 17 years 7 months old. He is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial, UK.
Ordinary Seaman Edward Mervyn Blackstone Parker (5777) was born 15 April 1901 in Newtown, Sydney. He was posted to London Depot in August 1917 and to HMAS Sydney two months later. He died on 13 December 1918, aged 17 years 7 months, and is buried at Leicester (Welford Road) Cemetery, UK.
Ordinary Signalman Oscar Harold Nixon (2250, HMAS Australia) was born on 19 December 1897 in Warialda, NSW. HMAS Australia was flagship of the 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron patrolling the North Sea when Oscar died on 25 March 1915. He was aged 17 years 8 months. He is buried in the Dalmeny and Queensferry Cemetery, Scotland.
Ordinary Seaman William Kenneth Buck (2127, HMAS Australia) was born on 28 April 1897 at Devonport West, Tasmania. He died on 10 March 1915, two weeks before Oscar Nixon on the same ship. William was 17 years 10 months old. He is buried in the Dalmeny and Queensferry Cemetery, Scotland.