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The Youngest Anzac? Private James Martin.14 years 9 months, DOI.

Lone Pine (cemetery & memorial) is mostly for the 3,700 Australians and New Zealanders who, like Burton VC, have no known grave and the 1,200 who, like Shout VC, were buried at sea. Their names are on stone panels at the foot of the pylon. 

Private James Martin is listed here. He was a farmhand from Victoria who left for Gallipoli on June 28 1915. 

He spent some hours in the water after the Southland was torpedoed near Lemnos and reached Anzac on September 8.

 A month later he picked up a pencil and wrote in a boyish scrawl to his parents in Melbourne suburb of Hawthorn.

"Just a line hoping all is well as it leaves me at present. Things are just the same here the only difference we are expecting a bit of rain which will not be welcomed by us. 

This place will be a mud hole when the rain does come. We had a bit of a shower last night but it was nothing to speak of.

Occording [sic] to an account of a Turkish Officer who gave himself up the other night says that the Turks are getting very badly treated by the Ottoman Officers and are only getting one meal a day and that was in the evening. There was one Turk who tried to give himself up the other night got shot by the sentry. We dragged him into our Trenches to bury him in the morning and you ought to have seen the state he was in. He had no boots on, an old pair of trousers all patched and an old coat. 

The pioneers took him down the gully to bury him and one got shot in the thigh by a snipers in the Turks Trenches. We are not doing bad for food, we got that little present from Lady Ferguson [wife of the Australian Governor General] that was 2 fancy biscuits, half stick Chocolate and 2 sardines each. I think I have told you all the news so I must draw to a close with Fondest love to all."

Private Martin craved a letter. Across the top of his letter he scrawled: 

"Write soon. I have received no letters since I left Victoria and I have been writing often." 

A little over a fortnight later he died from heart failure, probably caused by enteric fever, and was buried at sea.

His enlistment papers gave his age as 18. 

  • At the time of his death he was 14 years and nine months. 

Among his effects was a scrap of red and white streamer that he had picked up as his troopship left Melbourne.

From "Gallipoli" by Les Carlyon ISBN 0-7329-1128-1


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Digger History:  an unofficial history of the Australian & New Zealand Armed Forces