Biography

Birth date: 03 January 1901
Birth place: Australia: New South Wales, Tocumwal
Death date: 25 October 1915
Death place: At sea (Glenart Castle)
Final rank: Private
Service number: 1553 - First World War, 1914-1918
Unit: 21st Australian Infantry Battalion

James Charles Martin was born at Tocumwal, New South Wales, on 3 January 1901. Keen for all things military, Jim joined the cadets at school and the year after leaving school he took up work as a farm hand. In 1915, Martin was eager to enlist with the Australian Imperial Force. His father had previously been rejected from service and Jim, the only male child of his family, was keen to serve in place of his father. Anyone under the age of 21 required written parental permission to enlist, and although Martin looked old for his age and his voice had broken he could not pass for a 21-year-old.

When Jim threatened to run away, join under another name and not to write to her if he succeeded in being deployed, his mother reluctantly gave her written permission for him to enlist. Martin succeeded in enlisting at the age of 14 years and 3 months, almost 4 years under the minimum age. After training for several months at Broadmeadows Camp, he departed with the 21st Infantry Battalion from Melbourne aboard HMAT Berrima on 28 June 1915.

From Egypt Martin and the other reinforcements of the 21st Battalion were deployed to Gallipoli. Their transport ship was torpedoed en route by a German submarine and Martin and several others spent hours in the water before being rescued. Martin eventually landed on Gallipoli in the early hours of 7 September and took up position near Wire Gully. In the following few months casualties from enemy action were slight, but the front-line work, short rations, sickness, flies, lice, and mosquitoes took their toll on the unit. Martin sent several letters to his parents from Gallipoli. In late October he contracted typhoid fever and was evacuated to hospital ship HMHS Glenart Castle on 25 October 1915. By this time he had lost half his weight and was in a bad state. Despite the best efforts of the medical staff aboard, in particular that of Matron Frances Hope Logie Reddoch, Martin died of heart failure just under two hours later. He was three months short of his 15th birthday. Martin was buried at sea and is commemorated on the Lone Pine Memorial on Gallipoli. The day after his death, Matron Reddoch wrote a heartfelt letter to Martin's mother back in Australia about her young son.

While he may not have been the youngest Australian to serve during the First World War, James Martin is considered the youngest to have died on active service.

Rolls and Awards

Roll of Honour

  • Rank: Private
  • Date of Death: 25 October 1915
  • Unit: 21st Australian Infantry Battalion

First World War Embarkation Roll

  • Rank: Private
  • Date of embarkation: 28 June 1915
  • Place of embarkation: Melbourne

Private Record

Martin, James Charles (Private, b.1901 - d.1915)

Letter dated 9 October 1915 written at Gallipoli by Pte James Martin to his parents in Australia, and presentation copy of the New Testament. Private Martin is believed to be the youngest known Australian soldier to die during the First World War. Maker: Martin, James Charles

PR83/061 (With records)

Martin, James Charles (Private, b.1901 - d.1915

Letter dated 26 August 1915 written by Pte James Martin from Heliopolis, Egypt, to his parents in Australia. Private Martin is believed to be the youngest known Australian soldier to die during the First World War. Bereavement card sent to Martin's parents by Mr & Mrs Gibbons after Pte Martin's... Maker: Martin, James Charles

PR85/382 (With records)

James Martin research notes by Anthony Hill

Research notes relating to Private James Charles ('Jim') Martin, believed to be the youngest Australian soldier to die at Gallipoli in the First World War, compiled by Anthony Hill while writing his book "Soldier Boy". Related to PR83/061 and PR85/339. Maker: Hill, A R

PR01733

Martin, James Charles (Private, b.1901 - d.1915)

Three original letters handwritten by Private James Martin 21st Battalion, to his family from camp in Victoria, and later during service on Gallipoli. Also includes three letters of condolence to his family following his death (one from the Matron on board HM Hospital Ship Glenart Castle, Matron... Maker: Reddoch, Frances Hope Logie

PR85/339 (With records)

Heraldry

Souvenir embroidered cushion cover from Egypt 1915 : Private James Martin, 21 Battalion AIF

Souvenir embroidered cushion cover from Egypt, 1915. The cover is white polished cotton with a pale blue / silver fringe. The colourful decorative embroidery is machine-chain stitched. In each corner is a crescent and star decoration. In the middle are pyramids, a sphinx, a palm tree, the Union...

REL/13040

1914-1915 Star : Private J Martin, 21 Battalion, AIF

1914-15 Star. Impressed reverse with recipient's details.

REL28919.001

British War Medal 1914-20 : Private J Martin, 21 Battalion, AIF

British War Medal 1914-20. Impressed around edge with recipient's details.

REL28919.002

Anzac Medallion : James Martin

Bronze medallion showing on the obverse Simpson and his donkey and '1915', surmounted by a Queen's crown. Beneath a laurel wreath and 'ANZAC'. Reverse shows map of Australasia superimposed on the Southern Cross, with fern fronds and an engraved name 'J.MARTIN' beneath.

REL28920

Circular aluminium identity disc : Private James Martin, 21 Battalion, AIF

Circular aluminium identity disc stamped with '1553 / 1 21 / AIF / CF'. 'MARTIN' is scatched into the disc between 'AIF' and 'CF'.

REL/08576

Victory Medal : Private James Martin, 21 Battalion, AIF

Victory Medal. Impressed reverese with recipient's details.

REL/13269

Digitised Collection

Letter and bible relating to James Martin, 1914-1915

Letter and bible relating to the First World War service of 1553 Private James Martin, 21st Infantry Battalion. In a letter to his parents, Martin, describes the poor weather of the Gallipoli peninsula at the time and receiving food parcels from home. He also mentions the surrender of a Turkish...

RCDIG0000925

Letter and card relating to James Martin, 1915

Letter and card relating to the First World War service of Private 1553 James Martin, 21st Infantry Battalion. In the letter to his parents, Martin, writing from Heliopolis, reassures them that he is well and states that he is about to leave for the Dardanelles to fight the Turks. Also included is...

RCDIG0000971

Letters and certificates relating to James Martin, 1915

Letters and certificates relating to the First World War service of Private 1553 James Martin, 21st Infantry Battalion. Believed to be the youngest Australian soldier killed in war, Martin has written several letters to his parents from training camps in Australia and from the trenches at Gallipoli...

RCDIG0000970

Photograph

P05051.001

Group portrait of 1553 Private (Pte) James (Jim) Martin, of Hawthorn, Vic, with his five sisters. Identified, left to right: Annie, Alice, Millie, James, Ester and Mary. Pte Martin enlisted on 12 April 1915, aged 14 years and 3 months, perhaps the youngest soldier to serve in the Australian forces,...

P05051.001

P11807.001

Portrait of James Martin, beside the Roll of Honour cloisters on the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. James Martin, an 11 year old from Queanbeyan, shares the same name as 1553 Private (Pte) James Charles (Jim) Martin, who was the youngest Anzac to die on active service at...

P11807.001

P00069.001

Studio portrait of 1553 Private (Pte) James (Jim) Martin, 1st Reinforcements, 21st Battalion, of Hawthorn, Vic. Pte Martin was born at Tocumwal on 3 January 1901. He enlisted on 12 April 1915, aged 14 years and 3 months, perhaps the youngest soldier to serve in the Australian forces, and embarked...

P00069.001

Timeline

Date of birth 1901-01-03
Enlisted 1915-04
Military unit 1915-04 1st reinforcements, 21st Battalion AIF
Embarked for Egypt 1915-06 On HMAT Berrima
Date of embarkation 1915-06-28
Date of death 1915-10-25
Evacuated from Gallipoli 1915-10-25 On hospital ship Glenart Castle
Embarked for Gallipoli 1916-06 On HMT Southland
Landed at Gallipoli 1916-09-08