Too Young to Die

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

by John Boileau and Dan Black

foreword by John de Chastelain

The never-before-told story of underage youth in uniform

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 Authors

John Boileau
John Boileau
Dan Black
Dan Black

JOHN BOILEAU is a retired Canadian army colonel and author of fifteen books and over 650 articles. He is a frequent commentator for radio and television specializing in military history. In 2010 the Minister of National Defence appointed him Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel of the Halifax Rifles. He is a recipient of the Order of Nova Scotia, the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal, the Queen Elizabeth Platinum Jubilee Medal (NS), a Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia Vice-Regal Commendation and a Commander Canadian Army Commendation. He lives with his wife Miriam in Bedford, Nova Scotia.

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.

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


"Too Young to Die, by John Boileau and Dan Black, provides an exhaustive account of the lads, some as young as 14, who bluffed their way into the Canadian armed forces during the Second World War. They lied about their age or borrowed an older brother's identity, puffed-up their often scrawny chests and signed on the dotted line.

The work provides in-depth accounts of how underage Canadians made their way to war, fought and, in many cases, died for their country, despite not being old enough to vote."
Chris Lambie, Atlantic Books Today
"In Too Young to Die, the authors do an exemplary job of ensuring reliability to the young men...
Through Too Young to Die remains a fact-based, non-fiction work, both Boileau and Black are able to keep the attention of the reader due to the accessibility of the tales being told."
Ryan Gallant, The Chronicle Herald
"Dan Black has again brought to life the stories of underage soldiers, sailors and airmen.
To track down underage soldiers, Black and Boileau delved into the personnel files of soldiers, sailors and airmen; more specifically, the estate branch form... Too Young to Die tells the chronology of the Second World War."
Jennifer Westendorp, Inside Ottawa Valley

Subjects (BISAC)


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