James Kerr - Joining the army

Running time
1 min 41 sec
Date made
Department of Veterans' Affairs


I always had a love for the navy and when I was 13, I sat for the midshipman's exam to enter the Royal Australian Naval College and qualify as a midshipman. So it was an educational exam and I didn't pass that because my standards were only state level, whereas it was a higher level than the one I was being taught at that time, so I failed. So I said to my father, "When I'm 16, I want to go in the navy." Which you could do then at 16 and a half years of age, for 12 years.

He said, "Well, if that's what you want to do with your life. Your mother and I are quite happy with you doing that." When I left school at 14, I didn't worry about learning a trade, I decided I'll just wait until I'm 16 and a half, and I'll join the navy. That was going to be my life.

In 1940, '39, the war broke out. Of course, in 1940, there's soldiers everywhere. I saw a friend of mine who never, I wasn't very close to, but he was a friend. I saw him in an army uniform, and I said, "How did you get in the army?" He said, "I put my age up." That got the wheels turning. I thought, "If I can't get in the Navy?" Because you have to show your birth certificate to join the navy, so that caught me up straight away. Which meant I had to wait until when I was 18. I thought, "Oh." I thought, "Yeah, I might go to the army then." In August 1940, I walked into the Malvern Town Hall, age 15, and joined the AIF. That's how I came to be a soldier.

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