James Charles (Jim) MARTIN

MARTIN, James Charles

Service Number: 1553
Enlisted: 12 April 1915, Melbourne, Victoria
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 21st Infantry Battalion
Born: Tocumwal, New South Wales, Australia, 3 January 1901
Home Town: Hawthorn, Boroondara, Victoria
Schooling: Manningtree Road State School
Occupation: Farm Labourer
Died: (Fever, At sea (HS Glenart Castle), 25 October 1915, aged 14 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
Lone Pine Memorial, Gallipoli Peninsula, Canakkale Province, Turkey
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Tocumwal Martin Memorial Plaque
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World War 1 Service

12 Apr 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 1553, 21st Infantry Battalion, Melbourne, Victoria
28 Jun 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 1553, 21st Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1, --- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '13' embarkation_place: Melbourne embarkation_ship: HMAT Berrima embarkation_ship_number: A35 public_note: ''
28 Jun 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, 1553, 21st Infantry Battalion, HMAT Berrima, Melbourne
29 Aug 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 1553, 21st Infantry Battalion, ANZAC / Gallipoli

Help us honour James Charles Martin's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Peita Liaptsis

James Charles Martin, born on January 3rd 1901, in Tocumwal, New South Wales attended Manningtree Road State School. A year after leaving school, James started work as a farm labourer. Later, in 1915 James forced his mother to enlist himself in the Australian Imperial Force. He was known to be the youngest male to die at war. James’ motivation began after his father was previously rejected from service. James was also the only male child in his family and was keen to serve in place of his father. With that, James needed a written parental permission to enlist because he was younger than the minimum age, which was 21 years old. 

Martin succeeded to recruit at the age of 14 and three months, which was four years under the minimum age. After training for several months at Broadmeadows Camp, James departed from Melbourne, with the 21st Infantry Battalion, aboard HMAT Berrima on the 28th of June 1915.

Martin and the other reinforcements of the 21st Battalion were deployed to Gallipoli from Egypt. Their transport ship was destroyed by a German submarine. Martin and several others in the water for hours before being rescued. On the 7th of September James landed in Gallipoli and was positioned near Wire Gully. In the following month’s short rations of food, sickness, flies, lice, and mosquitoes took their toll on the unit, while enemy casualties were slim. Several letters were sent from James to his parents from Gallipoli. On the 25th of October 1915 James was diagnosed with typhoid fever and was evacuated to hospital ship HMHS Glenart Castle. At this point he had lost a great deal of weight was in a bad state. Doctors and other medical staff tried all they could but unfortunately could not save him.

James Charles Martin died of heart failure on the 25th of October 1915, three months before his 15th birthday. He was buried at sea and is now commemorated at the Lone Pine Memorial in Gallipoli. A day after his death, Matron Reddoch, the medic who tried to save James, wrote a letter to Martin’s mother in Australia about her only son.

James Charles Martin is considered the youngest to have died on active service during the First World War.


Biography contributed by Peter Rankin

His epitaph written by his parents reads. 







Biography contributed by Glenunga International High School

James Charles Martin (Jim Martin)


With the use of both Primary and Secondary sources, a biography was written to tell the noble story of James Charles Martin and his unwavering loyalty to his nation, Australia.

World War 1 was triggered by many factors, however the most substantial one being the death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, on the 28th of June, 1914. He was shot to death by Gavrilo Princip on a visit to Serbia with his wife. After Serbia refused the terms Austria-Hungary provided for compensation of his death, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Alliances played a huge role in involving the different countries, making it a World War, demonstrated by Germany, an ally of Austria-Hungary, when they decided it was necessary to declare war on Russia and its ally, France also. Britain was then forced to declare war on Germany, recruiting help from Australia.

James Charles Martin was born on the 3rd of January 1901 in Tocumwal, NSW; baptized on the 21st of July. [Unknown. 1901. Certificate of Baptism.] He was the third child of Charles and Amelia Martin, his 5 sisters being; Esther (Born: 1896),  Alice (B: 1898), Mary (B: 1903), Annie (B: 1905) and Millie (B: 1908). During the early days after moving to Melbourne in 1906, money ran tight; causing them to move from house to house before finally settling in Hawthorn in 1910. Jim attended Manningtree Road State School, in the same year, at the age of 9. [Hill, A, 2001. Soldier Boy.] Throughout his childhood, he was very interested in military-related roles or events, such as being part of the junior cadets; which he joined at the age 12. Even after that, like many other boys, he was then keen to join the senior cadets when he turned 18. Little did he know, he would not live to reach that stage.

When World War 1 broke out in July, 1914, there was great excitement in Australia and many spoke of enlisting. All the men rushed to join, leaving behind work that had to done. As a consequence, the younger men went to take on those roles. In January 1915, Jim moved to Maldon to find farm work for his aunt and uncle, but even that was not enough. When he found out his father was rejected during the medical examination, he stood up to go instead. In April, he went back to Melbourne in pursuit of a consent letter from his parents, permitting him to go to war. After countless arguments, he threatened to sign under another name and never write back; which was successful as they signed the permission slip on the 10th of April.

On the fateful day, 12th of April, Jim went down to the Melbourne Town Hall to enlist. He claimed he was 18 years of age, and they accepted him, even mentioning he was the “fittest specimen” they had seen all day. [Hill, A, 2001. Soldier Boy.] He was then taken to the medical room to be tested for any signs of disease or defect, before taking the Oath, promising to “Well and truly serve the King until the end of War ”. He was then taken to the Depot at Broadmeadows. There, Jim was assigned to the 1st Reinforcements of the 21st Battalion. In early June, the 21th Battalion were transferred to Seymour to complete their training. [Martin,J.C, 21/06/1915, Seymour.]

After around 2 months of training, they were to break camp and set on their voyage to Egypt. The battalion was given a 24-hour leave the day before their embarkment, to visit their families one last time. [Martin,J.C, 24/06/1915, Military Camp Seymour.] On Monday, the 28th of June, they finally left aboard the Berrima.

Throughout their voyage, the ship stopped at various islands and ports. A noteworthy stop, was at Colombo, on the island of Ceylon, which was the first foreign city Jim had seen. Afterwards, they passed through a strait, ‘The Gate of Years’, into the Red Sea, before finally arriving at Egypt, on the 26th of July. They camped at the Aerodrome camp at Heliopolis where they officially joined the Battalion mid-August. He was then assigned to the 4th Platoon, which was split into groups of 10. Luckily, he was in the same section as Cecil James Hogan, a mate he had acquired in the duration of the long voyage. Cec Hogan was 16 years of age, who had also threatened his parents to let him go to war. The two quickly became best of mates, sharing secrets and a close-knit bond of fellowship.

On the 27th of August, as written by Jim in his letter home, the 21st Battalion broke camp. [Martin,J.C, 26/08/1915, Heliopolis.] However they only set off a few days later, once again aboard the Southland from Alexandria to Lemnos Island and Gallipoli. Tragically, on the 2nd of September, the Southland was torpedoed by a German submarine. As the men were deboarding the ship onto lifeboats, Jim’s boat overturned as it was being lowered into the sea. He was stranded in the ocean for 4 hours before being rescued by a lifeboat. The lifeboat was then picked up by the Raccoon, one of the many naval vessels or ships that responded to the SOS. As the rescue ship arrived at Mudros Bay, they were transferred to the Transylvania then onto the Abbassieh departing to Gallipoli, on the 7th of September. [Hill, A, 2001. Soldier Boy.]

Arriving at Gallipoli on the 8th, the troops had to become quickly accustomed to the horrible conditions in the trenches and the loud noises of gun firing. They relieved the 8th Battalion of the front lines and took their places. In a letter Jim wrote on the 9th of October, he told his parents of the poor treatment the Turks were receiving. [Martin,J.C, 09/10/1915, Gallipoli.] Both sides’ had a common enemy, the German Kaiser. However, he began to feel sick hours after he wrote the letter, delaying his trip to the medic continuously for 2 weeks. Inevitably, he collapsed which forced him to the ambulance station. He was transported to the Glenart Castle, which was taking the day’s sick and injured to the hospital ship. However, he never made it. On the same day, the 25th of October, he died of heart failure at 6:40pm.

A letter from Matron Reddock and Cec Hogan were received by his family to send their condolences, as well as an official telegram. The whole family was in grief, his mother’s hair turning white overnight. An article was published mentioning Jim on the 18th of December, when news came out about the Southland’s mishap. [Gambre, G, 22/04/1984, Nevermind Dad, The Youngest Aussie to go to War.] His parents divorced; although they still maintained a good relationship, and his sisters all got married and/or had children. James Charles Martin is buried beneath the Aegean Sea but his name is inscribed on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, and at the Lone Pine Cemetery and Memorial in Gallipoli.




Enlisting aged 14 years and two months of age, Jim Martin is thought to be the youngest Australian soldier to lose his life in the Great War, dying from fever aquired in the trenches of Gallipoli still two months shy of his 15th Birthday.