Sick and injured children, like combatants wounded by shot and shell in war, are disproportionately represented in the tallies of both man-made and national disasters. Paediatricians have a particularly proud heritage of military service, a nexus dating in Australia from the early 19th century. This paper traces this link between service to children in peacetime and the care of servicemen, women and children in times of war and disaster. The extraordinary record of Australian ‘paediatric’ doctors who also served in the Gallipoli Campaign (1915) is documented as an illustration of this duality. Paediatricians who serve in the Defence Reserves and in civilian non-government organisations which respond to disasters and civil wars have special credentials in their advocacy for the protection of children enmeshed in conflict or disaster. Such applies particularly to the banning of the recruitment and use of child soldiers; support for children caught up in refugee and illegal immigrant confrontations; and continued advocacy for greater international compliance with the Ottawa Convention to ban the use of anti-personnel landmines. Volunteering for such service must occur in cold ‘down time’, ensuring that paediatricians are trained in disaster and conflict response, when such challenges inevitably confront the paediatricians of the future.