Albert James Anderson - the youngest member of the 849
Albert James Anderson was one of the youngest in Australia to enlist into the AIF – he was just 15 years old when he first attempted to enlist.
Albert was born in October 1900 in Balmain NSW to James and Elizabeth Anderson. The family later moved to Western Australia and took up residence in Perth and then Fremantle. Albert received his early education at James Street School and was also a member of the Cadets.
Albert’s father James enlisted into the AIF on 14 December 1915. This seems to have been a catalyst for Albert to enlist as he signed up just three days later.
At just 15 years old, the examining medical officer found that Albert was 5 feet 6 ½ inches in height; weighed 108 lbs; had a chest measurement of 31-34 inches; fresh complexion, grey eyes and light brown hair. His religious denomination was listed as Presbyterian.
Albert was initially sent to No.39 Depot at Blackboy Hill Camp and then was transferred to the 15th reinforcements to the 16th Battalion AIF with the regimental number 4748. His father was in the same reinforcement group with the regimental number 4743. Before this group embarked for service overseas, Albert was discharged in March 1916 as being under age, the authorities having been notified by his mother. Therefore James Anderson sailed off for war without his son.
Being found out as under age did not stop Albert trying again, as on 18 May 1916 he once again enlisted, this time under the assumed name of James Hegarty. Hegarty was his mother’s maiden name. Albert was once again accepted for service and spent a month at No.69 Depot before being assigned to the 22nd Reinforcements to the 16th Battalion. He was then withdrawn from this group and sent to the 6th reinforcements to the 48th Battalion where he was given the regimental no.2683.
This group embarked Fremantle on 30 October 1916 aboard the Port Melbourne and disembarked at Devonport in England on 28 December 1916. After arriving in England, Albert was attached to the 12th Training Battalion at Codford Camp on the Salisbury Plains. On 10 February 1917 Albert was admitted to Hospital at Sutton Veny with bronchitis, the cold English winter proving too much for him. He fought his illness for 12 days when unfortunately he died on 22 February 1917. Albert James Anderson was buried at Sutton Veny Churchyard with full military honours. Heartbreakingly James had been unable to see his young son before he died as he was in France, serving with the 48th Battalion.
From her home at 90 Jenkins Street South Fremantle, Elizabeth Anderson wrote the epitaph for Albert’s headstone:
In Proud And Loving Memory
Of My Dear and Only Son
Many thanks to Andrew Pittaway for sharing the story, and Peter Blaxell for the photograph of Albert James Anderson.