We have a family story that my ancestor, Robert George Hitchcox, who was born 10 June 1900, enlisted in Adelaide (South Australia) for World War I, at the age of 15 or 16. The story has it that when his mother found out she took him back to the recruitment station and revealed his true age; thus ending his military career.

Would records exist that could confirm/refute whether someone underage actually signed enlistment papers in circumstances like those I describe above?

I have no reason to doubt that there is some basis to the story, and recently learned that his uncle, Frank Percy Hitchcox, a book keeper, aged 44 years 7 months, joined the 7/30th Battalion at Casula (NSW) on 20 Jan 1916, so maybe this inspired him to enlist and led him to think age was no barrier.

The military career of the uncle also ended abruptly, when despite having had varicose veins operated on in Dec 1915, they apparently flared up during the voyage to Egypt where he was declared medically unfit and returned to Australia soon after arrival.

I found the uncle very easily via a National Archives of Australia search but he not only enlisted but also embarked. I have a feeling that the enlistment papers of my younger ancestor, had they been signed, may have been torn up in front of his mother and never made the official records.


1 Answer 1


While not a direct answer to your question, I have a similar situation in Queensland.

The family story is that my ancestor joined up, in the footsteps of his elder brother. A couple of weeks later he was found out and was escorted home by the Military Police. The story has it that no paperwork was shown to his mother at the time.

I have obtained the elder brother's service record from the Australian National Archives, he was wounded at Gallipoli. However, there is no evidence to support the story about the youngster. I have come to the conclusion that no records were kept - the original sign-up papers were probably destroyed.

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