Last WWI combat veteran dies

May 5, 2011 • 3:59 pm

I don’t know why I feel compelled to report the deaths of “last war veterans”; perhaps it’s because I feel that my own generation is moving into the front lines.  At any rate, the Washington Post reports that Claude Choules, the “only remaining veteran of World War I and one of the last people to have served in both world wars,” died today in Australia at the age of 110.

Mr. Choules and another Briton, Florence Green, became the war’s last known surviving service members after the death of American Frank Buckles in February, according to the Order of the First World War, a U.S.-based group that tracks veterans.

Mr. Choules was the last known surviving combatant of the war. Green, who turned 110 in February, served as a waitress in the Women’s Royal Air Force.

“Everything comes to those who wait and wait,” Mr. Choules told an interviewer in 2009. . . .

Despite the fame his military service brought him, Mr. Choules later in life became a pacifist who was uncomfortable with anything that glorified war. He disagreed with the celebration of Anzac Day, Australia’s most important war memorial holiday, and refused to march in parades held each year to mark the holiday.

“I had a pretty poor start,” he told a reporter in 2009. “But I had a good finish.”

RIP, Claude.

29 thoughts on “Last WWI combat veteran dies

  1. I was just over at PZ’s place, where I read his posting about the pastor who killed 200 feeder fish in front of children, chiding the children who cried about when he did it. So now I have the weltschmerz, too.

    1. Yeah, quite disgusting. A person in (presumed) authority showing kids that it is quite OK to abuse and kill animals just to make a point, and a pointless one at that. How many kids will get the idea that it is OK to abuse animals? How many little kids are traumatised by such, dare I say it, immoral examples?

      Even though they are “only” fish, these are living things that will only have the one existence that they will ever get. It may not be much, but that is all they will ever have.

      1. Are there not anti-cruelty laws? In the UK that sort of thing would probably mean a prosecution.

    2. Did not know about that Marta. Now I look like a codfish myself, sitting here with my mouth hanging open. In my home state, too (the *shame*…). Let’s hope the AP picks this up–that man should be globally disgraced. I wish I had something more cutting to say, but my mind has gone blank with shock.

  2. The photo looks a lot like a death portrait. Is it? In any case the picture depicts a man who is at peace and is very tranquil. It is a very lovely portrait. What more could anyone ask for than a “good finish”?

  3. Claude’s memoir “Last of the Last” was published two years ago, making him probably the world’s oldest author.

  4. I was born between the start of WWII and the US entry. I remember, during a break on my newspaper route, reading that the last veteran of the Civil War had died. I can’t remember whether he was a Union soldier or a Confederate. It seems that these type of events will never end.

    1. No, as long as there are wars, there will always be someone who is the last to die.

  5. I did not know about his refusal to be involved in Anzac Day. Kudos to him.

    It’s turned into some sort of warped national day which has moved well beyond Lest we Forget into something else, and certainly something that goes beyond remembering the sacrifices of the soldiers into glorification, arguably.

    Anyhoo, interesting.

  6. “only remaining veteran of World War I and one of the last people to have served in both world wars,”
    Um, as he was the last veteran of WWI, wouldn’t he also be the last person to have served in both wars..?!?!

    1. Only if he served in both wars. Some folks thought one war was enough for them.

      In WW2 he was responsible for setting charges to blow up assets around Fremantle harbour if the Japanese showed up. Seems his WW2 service was more about defence of Oz than taking the fight to the enemy.

      1. Well, the point was: if he’s the last veteran of WWI then by definition he was the last person to have served in both wars…
        Anyone else who served in both wars would also be a veteran of WWI…

      1. It makes better sense as “…and one of the last people to have served in either World War.”

        He apparently said that a lot (most?) of the WW1 veterans were pacifists like him, because they had been taught that WW1 was The War To End War, then along came WW2.

  7. “I had a pretty poor start,” he told a reporter in 2009. “But I had a good finish.”

    What a great epitaph.

  8. It must be such a weird feeling to think back on the war (WWI) and think that everyone you met, fought with, and fought against was dead; that you survived every single one of your enemies. That you were the sole survivor of the entire WORLD war. And how especially weird it would feel if he could go back in time for a moment and think about that as he looked around.

  9. As one who is becoming more and more pacifist with every year, I was inordinately glad to read of his pacifism in my newspaper’s account.

    And also to learn that his nickname was “Chuckles.”

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