Youngest Enlisted Men : 15 & 16 year old Soldiers
The following veterans were under 16 years old when they saw combat in WW2, from the commencement of the war up to a cut-off date of November 1944. Most of this information comes from the now-defunct website worldwar2undersixteens.org. Ironically, it’s founder, John Victor Miller, who claimed to be the youngest soldier that ever served in the war, was discovered to be a fake! He never served during the war at all.
Youngest World War 2 Veterans
- Youngest World War 2 Veterans
- John Acland
- Doug Anderson
- Eric Boyd
- Ronald Brotherson
- Bruce Campbell
- Neville Carlyle
- Roy Crossley
- David Curry
- Geoffrey Dwyer
- Gwilym Easton
- Cliff Glew
- Robin (Bob) Gregory
- Roland Griffiths-Marsh MM
- John Heather
- Frederick Imber
- Don Kennedy
- Thomas Kirkham
- Robert Lamond
- Len Leggett
- Frank Meikle
- Sid Morris
- Dennis Moule
- Jack O’Regan
- Peter Oakley
- Doug Orr
- Edward Owen
- Arthur Pearce
- Bill Phillips OAM ED
- Allan Pollock
- Trevor Priday
- Len Priest
- Eric Pywell
- Cecil Quinn
- William Redshaw
- Jack Rowsell
- Keith Sims
- George Smith
- Keith Solway
- Roland Ware
- Trevor Williams: OAM
If you know of other veterans that belong on this list, please let me know.
At 15, a strong calling to serve his country saw john join the royal navy as a boy seaman. As the youngest serving member of the H.M.S black prince, he saw action with Russian conveys, D-Day. the Aegean islands, Crete and the liberation of Greece. His ship took part in air strikes on Sumatra, Truk, Okinawa and Japan. Next came Hong Kongs turn for freedom.
Doug determined on becoming a soldier at an early age; joining the RAA and then the 16th Hunter River lancers before turning 16. His next stop was the 5th Heavy Brigade, and then the 2nd/1st FLD Regiment; Middle Easy Force. Departing the desert sandstorms, Doug swapped to the 2nd/1st FLD Ambulance at 17.
Eric’s father became a POW of the Japanese and using his Granddad’s identity card; he forged his age and set sail on the Dominion Monarch. Eric served on a number of ships including the HMS Swift sure at Leyte Gulf and the HMS Newfoundland in the bombardment of Truk. His final action was the shelling of the oil tanks at Kamachi, north of Tokyo.
Sixteen-years-old Ron, rarely shaved when he joined the army in 1941. After significant jungle training the nine-stone’s 2/13th battalion landed in mortatai. Next it was on to Borneo and Brunei; sadly, too late to save out Australian P.O.W.’s from being put to death by the Japanese. Ron spent his 21st birthday in Japan
Bruce was one month short of his 15th birthday when he decided it was no use waiting to fight the Japanese in Orange. Dressing himself in his Grandfather’s work trousers to make him look less like a schoolboy, he presented himself as an 18 year old and six months later was with the 2/5th battalion confronting the Japanese at Milne bay.
Neville was a country boy, wandering the bush to fish and shoot a an early age/ Turning 16, his army career commenced and after completing his training, arrived in New Guinea with the 6th machine gun BN. Neville took part in the first ever airborne invasion by Australians at Ramu Valley and later took part in the invasion of Balikpapan.
14 year-old Roy failed in his attempts to enlist in the AIF and joined the Militia. At 15 a change of name saw him in the AIF and manning a Lewis Gun against Japanese Zeros attacking Port Moresby. Repatriated to Concord’s AGH, the “under 16: veteran returned to a new unit taking part in the invasion of Borneo. Roy was aged 18 at the War’s End.
David overcame his enlistment obstacles at 15 by a change of birth certificate. Told to report to the Sydney show-ground, ” Edward” found himself in the army where he served 1,404 days. David alias Edward saw action at Tarakan and was later flown to Concord’s AGH hospital where he spent four months until honorably discharged.
Forging papers and signatures to join the AIF; 16-year-old Geoff fought his first battle against the Japanese at Lau in New Guinea with the 2/31st Inf. Btn. Known as “young Geoff” by battalion survivors, he saw action at Lae, Nadzab, Ramu Valley, Morotai and Balikpapen. In 1995, he was chosen to take part in the ‘Australian Remembers’ pilgrimage to New Guinea.
Gill’s mother and father served overseas with the AIF, in WWI. Gill enlisted at 15 and saw action in Tobruk and Alamein and Later at Finschfen an Lae. Disc arched after almost five years 8 months service including three and a half years overseas, Gill served with the 26th inf. Brig; 9th div and 8th army.
At 15, Cliff joined the AIF by forging family documents. Arriving in New Guinea at 16, his 2/1st commando unit was credited with shooting down the first zero. Crossing the Owen Stanley’s he saw action from Bulldog to the Markham valley, Salamaua and Nadzab. Cliff was then discharged because of his age.
Robin (Bob) Gregory
Bob lost his parents by the time he was ten and at 16 ran away from home. Arriving at the Melbourne Town Hall he asked a soldier how old he was; come back when you can shave! Not content with the obvious wait, Bob bypasses this advice & served in N.G. from 43′ to 45′
Roland Griffiths-Marsh MM
Using his older brother’s name to gain entry in the AIF, Roland is one of Australia’s longest serving soldiers/ His military career commenced with the 2/8th battalion in Greece, Crete and North Africa and later with A “Z” special unit. Parachuted behind Japanese lines, Roland formed a force of Borneo head-hunters to harass the enemy for this; he was awarded the military medal.
John Samuel Heather put his age up by two years to join the CMF and then as with many of our members transferred to the AIF. On arriving at Moratai, John’s regiment was taken by landing barges to Tarakan and took part in Lieu-Colonel Green’s 2/7th Field Regiment’s landing on Sadau Island which took place prior to the main landing. John is yet another T.P.I.
Wagging school 2 months before his 15th birthday, Jim presented himself at Martin Place to join the A.I.F. His 18-year-old claim open to doubt, he was told his parents signature was needed. With the memory of his favourite brother dying of wounds in France, his mother refused. However, Jim’s assertiveness saw his Liberty Ship arriving at Moratai Celebes. Jim served 37 years in the NSW police force, rising to a Superintendent.
Don’s underage enlistment at 16 saw him undertake specialized training enabling him to later undertake a 3 day march over Kunai Flats, up and down mountains, across streams and across the Wompit River to the Markham Base Camp in New Guinea. At that time, the 5th Independent Company was the only troops forward of Moresby; spending two years in action.
At 15, Tom’s first action was on the HMT Aquitania in the Red Sea. When returning to Sydney the Kormoran survivors were sighted and rescued. His next ship, the “Ulysses” was torpedoed and sunk followed by further action when his ship was bombed and machine-gunned by the Japanese in N.G. Tom believes he is the youngest WW2 person to join the R.S.L.
Bob’s brother was captured in the battle of Crete and so at 15 he decided to Liberate Sid by enlisting. His youthful arrival at Ingleburn was greeted with howls of laughter; and an immediate discharge! A second attempt saw Bob after only 5 weeks of training take on the Japanese at Milne bay. Old Sid became very proud of his younger blood brother.
The second last child of a family of fourteen, Len’s parents were deceased when he decided it would be good economics to enlist. His attempts to join the AIF were unsuccessful and he sailed to New Guinea at 15 with the Militia. Switching to the AIF, Len served in Port Moresby, the Kokoda track, Milne bay, Buna, Gona, Sanananda and New Britain.
A few weeks after the 16th birthday, Frank enlisted with the A.I.F. in Leichardt and from that time in the under-age infantryman found himself engaged in a very busy itinerary. This included serving in Port Moresby, Taroona, Gorgon, Lae, Bougainville, Torokina and Morotai –and then it was on the Kure.
Sid was attending Granville technical college when he decided to enlist. Aged 15, he presented himself at the Sydney showground as an 18 year old and joined the Militia. His mother’s fabricated signature saw an onward movement into the A.I.F. with Sid serving in the Pacific from 1943 to the War’s end.
From the age of 14 1/2, Dennis was strafed and bombed in the English channel by the Germans, Shelled by the Japanese in Java and then reaching the age of enlistment served as a wireless air gunner on the Beaufort Bombers in New Guinea. Dennis will take part in his first ever Anzac March thus giving support to the men who have their all for their. Country.
Jack’s father and four older brothers enlisted and not to be outdone he followed suit and on his 15th birthday complained to the Richmond recruiting office that he was 18 and had not received his call-up papers. Sent to New Guinea, Jack served 263 days on active service; then ordered back to Australia because of his “False Age Attestation”.
At 15, Peter joined his first ship, the Winchester Castle, and one month later found himself in Cape Town/ This was followed by service on troop ships and the hazardous job of carrying aviation fuel; two out of the three convoys being attacked by U-boats. Peter’s tanker supplied Navy minesweepers and the Normandy beachhead for 3 months.
Granted special permission by the minister of shipping and transport, Doug Joined the Australian troop carrier HMAT Duntroon at 15 years of age. The Duntroon carried troops to and from the pacific and Indian Ocean war zones. Doug’s most enduring memory? The bringing home of the POW’s from Singapore.
Travelling in a tram in 1941, 15 year old Edward saw a sign with a slouch hat posing the question, “is this hat yours?” using someone’s name who he thought was 18; Ed underwent an interrogation by a disbelieving sergeant who was then informed by a medical orderly that the volunteer was in fact 19, not 18. Ed successfully arrived in New Guinea at 16.
Arthur’s early heroes were the spitfire pilots taking part in the Battle of Britain. Each week he would bring home an enlistment form which his parent’s would just as regularly tear up. However persistency carried the day and Arthur became a proud AIF footslogger in every sense of the word; treading the long and tortuous path from Madang to Wewak.
Bill Phillips OAM ED
Bill’s success after an underage change of places with his brother saw home serving on many battle fronts. Milne bay, Buna, Cape Endaiadere, Nassau Bay, Lae, Torokina, Jaba River, Marawaka, Mobaiai River, Buin Road, Mivo River, Rabaul and Morotal Island. Captain Bill Phillips, OAM, had 20 years of post war service which included the occupation of Japan.
Allan Pollock is believed to be the youngest Australian to survive by the Japanese. Alan was torpedoed on his way to Japan in 1944 and after his recue survived the war in a notorious Omine coal mine. The most enduring memories of his three and a half years as a POW is the comradelier and mateship of the Australian solider.
An under-age Trevor was initially rejected in 1941, but continued efforts saw him serving 1,051 days overseas; including Port Moresby, Oro bay and Buna. Field engineer training had him back in the Wewak area. Joining the BCOF, Trevor was in the advance party which landed at Kure; spending one year in Japan.
When he was two months old, Len’s father died from wounds received during WW1. Because of this he always wanted to be a soldier and at 14 realized his dream by passing himself off as 18 and joining the CMF. Transferring to the AIF at 15, his grandmother stepped in and Len was discharged. Changing his name, he enlisted in the RAAF and was wounded while serving in New Guinea.
Eric was evacuated from England to Sydney in 1941 at the age of 13. To enlist, Eric took his father’s first name and his mother’s maiden name and became Frederick James Franklin. The difficulty of checking English birth certificates saw a fifteen-year-old Eric entering the armoured corp and accruing a service of 4 ½ years, including Bouganville Island.
Cecil enlisted in the 15th light horse when he was sixteen-years-old. In 1941 he was called into “Rutherford Camp” for full-time training. Based in Darwin when the Japanese entered the war, Cecil took park in the invasion of Borneo with the 2/3 A/A REGT. He has been a Liverpool RSL member for 56 years.
Too young for the army, William served in the Indian and Pacific oceans with the R.A.N. His ship H.M.A.S. Hobart was torpedoed off the Solomon Islands and he later saw action at the Subic Bay and Cebu and the landings at Tarakan, Labuan, Balikpapan, and Wewak. Into Tokyo for the peace signing, his lasting image is for our first Aussie P.O.W’s departing Tokyo bay.
Ten stone in weight and fairly tall, Jack joined the army at 15 years and 3 months. Not long after being reported he was promptly discharged, given a new suit and told to go home. Changing his name, he was successful on the second attempt and served in New Guinea with the 2/2 A.I.B 6th division. Jack became a union official and been a T.P.I for 20 years.
Keith was 16 when he enlisted. 4 months later he was off to the Middle East and in 1942 saw action from July to December in the Western Desert, including El Alamein. Returning from the Middle East, Keith saw action in New Guinea; disembarking at Port Moresby and serving at Nabzab, Dumpu and Lee.
George attempted to enlist at 13 years and 9 months but was told to go home; the army did not need children. Doctoring his papers, he was successfully accepted at sixteen. Moratai was followed by Borneo, then the landings at Brunei and Miri Lutong. At the War’s end, Slater met the Japanese officer who had been selected to become the Mayor of Townsville.
Keith went to see at the age of 14 1/2 and was trained as a gunner on the 20 mm Oerilkons. This stood him in good stead when he was posted to the M.V, Sammex. The pilot who released his torpedo at the ship should have known better; an indignant young gunner shooting the plane down. Keith served in the Atlantic and Pacific and the invasion of Sicily and Italy.
On a black moonless night in 1942, Ron’s ship was torpedoed and he became one of the 5 survivors out of the 52. His lasting memory is of being unable to save a young trapped friend begging for his hand to be cut off. The 14 year old deck hand remained in the M.N rising through the ranks to that of Captain.
Trevor Williams: OAM
Trevor joined the 2/1 field regiment at 16-years-of-age. That was until he was discharged “At the request of his father.” That objection changes when Japan entered the war and Trevor served from 1942-45 in the 2/13 Bn and then at Wewak with the 30th Inf. Bn. One year was also spent with the B.O.A.C.