The main theme of Soldier Boy is about the life of war.
The story starts with the death of Jim aboard a hospital ship. It explains how he dies and the way the family were notified by the nurse sending a letter to them.
Then his story starts from the beginning reflecting on the early part of his life in the country. The families move to Melbourne and Jim’s school days particularly his time in the school cadets. The cadets were school units who were trained to be able to shoot and the art of survival. The family moved into the guest house and war being declared, with Australia becoming involved and the rush to enlist to be part of the big adventure. The whole country was caught up in the War commitment.
Jim enlists in the Infantry. He forces his family to sign the form to allow him to enlist saying he would go anyway and not write to them, and he was going in place of his Dad. His early training was at Broadmeadows. Gallipoli begins and Jims training continues at Seymour, then the battalion is shipped out. The trip to war on the “Berrima” sharing his secrets with Cec. They had a stopover in Colombo then landing at their arrival at Cairo.
Arriving at Egypt to train there, in the sand and heat and visiting the hospital and hearing horror stories, did not frighten them but made them keener to get into the action.Then came the trip on the Southland towards battle, being destroyed. Lifeboats were faulty and many were lost, they all thought they would be drowned but then they were rescued from the ocean by ships in the area. Taken aboard the French torpedo boat and taken ashore to Mudross Bay, then the Southland limping into Mudross Bay, they were able to save personal items. Then transferring to Transylvania, onto the Abessiah where life