BOY SAILOR: World War 2 Under Sixteens member Tom Kirkham signed up to fight at the age of 15 years and seven months.
BOY SAILOR: World War 2 Under Sixteens member Tom Kirkham signed up to fight at the age of 15 years and seven months. Picasa

Was Tom the youngest member to join the RSL?

TWEED Heads war veteran Tom Kirkham was probably the youngest member to join the RSL.

He was just 16 when he signed up on December 10, 1941.

A short while before, at 15 years and seven months, he had gone to war.

Tom, now 92, was honoured by the Tweed Heads & Coolangatta RSL Sub-Branch on February 27 with a certificate recognising his 75-year membership.

"There was a war on," he says, to explain his decision to join the battle at such a young age.

"It was during the Depression, 1940, and no one had any money.

"I signed on as a boy sailor in the Merchant Navy and went to sea aboard Her Majesty's Troopship Aquitania, initially tasked with carrying troops to the Middle East from Wellington, New Zealand, via Fremantle, Colombo and the Suez Canal and returning with Italian prisoners of war.

"I celebrated my 16th birthday whilst traversing the Red Sea and viewed, for the first time, beached and burnt-out troop ships - the ravages of war.

"I had my good times and my bad times.

"After we got torpedoed in the Atlantic, I spent two weeks in New York, on survivor's leave.

"I went to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel for Anzac Day in 1942."

This year, Tom will join other members of the WW2 Under Sixteens at the Currumbin commemorations on Anzac Day.


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