Too Young to Die

Canada's Boy Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen in the Second World War

Dan Black, John Boileau

The never-before-told story of underage youth in uniform
Date Published :
October 2016
Publisher :
Contributor(s) :
John de Chastelain
Illustration :
150 b&w visuals and 10 maps
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781459411722
Pages : 488
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock


John Boileau and Dan Black tell the stories of some of the 30,000 underage youths -- some as young as fourteen -- who joined the Canadian Armed Forces in the Second World War. This is the companion volume to the authors' popular 2013 book Old Enough to Fight about boy soldiers in the First World War. Like their predecessors a generation before, these boys managed to enlist despite their youth. Most went on to face action overseas in what would become the deadliest military conflict in human history.

They enlisted for a myriad of personal reasons -- ranging from the appeal of earning regular pay after the unemployment and poverty of the Depression to the desire to avenge the death of a brother or father killed overseas. Canada's boy soldiers, sailors and airmen saw themselves contributing to the war effort in a visible, meaningful way, even when that meant taking on very adult risks and dangers of combat.

Meticulously researched and extensively illustrated with photographs, personal documents and specially commissioned maps, Too Young to Die provides a touching and fascinating perspective on the Canadian experience in the Second World War.

Among the individuals whose stories are told:

• Ken Ewing, at age sixteen taken prisoner at Hong Kong and then a teenager in a Japanese prisoner of war camp

• Ralph Frayne, so determined to fight that he enlisted in the army, navy and Merchant Navy all before the age of seventeen

• Robert Boulanger, at age eighteen the youngest Canadian to die on the Dieppe beaches

About The Author

DAN BLACK has written and edited hundreds of articles on Canada's military, past and present. He is the former editor of Legion Magazine. Dan lives outside of Ottawa.

JOHN BOILEAU is a retired Canadian army colonel and author of twelve books and 500 articles. He is a frequent commentator on military issues for radio and television and a lecturer to service organizations and historical societies. In 2010 the Minister of National Defence appointed him Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel of The Halifax Rifles (RCAC) and in 2014 he became the unit's Honorary Colonel. He lives in Nova Scotia.

GENERAL JOHN de CHASTELAIN is a former Chief of the Defence Staff for the Canadian Armed Forces and an ambassador to the United States.



List of Maps

Organization of the Canadian Armed Forces Overseas

Canadian Army Overseas

Principal Warships of the Royal Canadian Navy

Royal Canadian Air Force Overseas

The “Boys”




“I had no knowledge of anything military until one day my father’s oldest brother . . . appeared in uniform . . .”

Youth and Another World War

Part I

First Battles: Hong Kong and Dieppe

Chapter 1

“It had been rather an unusual Christmas day . . . one to remember . . . one never to forget.”

Hong Kong, The Battle

Chapter 2

“I thought we’d be taken prisoner and we’re not going to be that long. I thought maybe six months at the most.”

Hong Kong, The Prisoners

Chapter 3

“I want to be at peace with God.”

Death at Dieppe

Part II

Italy: The D-Day Dodgers

Chapter 4

“We were — and are — quite proud of the boy’s determination and independence.”

Italy, The Invasion

Chapter 5

“Well Mother Darling this going to be an awful surprise to you all and I sure hope and pray that you dont take it to hard.”

Italy, The End

Part III

North-West Europe: D-Day to V-E Day

Chapter 6

“This is it. I’m going to die.”

Normandy, D-Day

Chapter 7

“I would have got it right across the middle of my chest.”

Normandy, The Road to Carpiquet

Chapter 8

“Whenever we were moving we were looking for depressions in the ground — someplace to dive into.”

Normandy, Caen to Falaise

Chapter 9

“I feel like crying my heart out — half with joy, half with sorrow.”

North-West Europe, Falaise to V-E Day

Part IV

Dangerous Waters

Chapter 10

“Asleep in the deep.”

On the Sea, The First Years

Chapter 11

“I got frostbite all up the left side of my face. I didn’t have to shave for years.”

On the Sea, The Final Years

Chapter 12

“One lad was only twelve years old — so I wasn’t always the youngest one.”

The Boys of Canada’s Merchant Navy

Part V

Dangerous Skies

Chapter 13

“As I remember him, he would have found another way.”

No. 6 (RCAF) Group Bomber Command in Britain

Chapter 14

“I went away as a boy and came back as a man.”

Bombing Germany and Occupied Europe


“I wasn’t sleeping or eating well so they put me in what they called the bomb-happy ward.”

Post-war, Back Home




Image Credits



“Meticulously researched and extensively illustrated with photographs, personal documents and specially commissioned maps, Too Young to Die provides a touching and fascinating perspective on the Canadian experience in the Second World War.”

- Recollections of WW2

"History is peppered with stories of young men who joined up when they were under age. Boileau's book takes a look at a huge number of young men aged 14+ who joined the Canadian Armed Forces to fight in the Second World War."

- Books Monthly

“Detailed it may be , but it is also a first class read and will appeal to both the general reader and military historians. 4.5 stars.”

- Army Rumour Service

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