Saturday, May 7, 2011

RIP Claude "Chuckles" Choules

Claude Choules as a young sailor
[Picture: via MOD]

From the MoD:

Last British male WWI veteran dies

A History and Honour news article

5 May 11

The last known male British combat veteran of the First World War has died in Australia aged 110.

Claude Choules, known to his comrades as 'Chuckles', died in his sleep at Gracewood Hostel in Salter Point near Perth today, Thursday 5 May 2011.

Mr Choules was born in Pershore, Worcestershire, and raised in nearby Wyre Piddle, from where he embarked on a long and eventful career in the Armed Forces.

In April 1915, Mr Choules joined the Nautical Training Ship Mercury before transferring to the Royal Navy in October 1916 to serve aboard the Naval Training Ship HMS Circe.

In 1917, he joined battleship HMS Revenge and, whilst serving aboard it, witnessed the surrender of the German Imperial Navy at the Firth of Forth in 1918, ten days after the Armistice, and also witnessed the scuttling of the German fleet in Scapa Flow.

After the war, Mr Choules served as a peacekeeper in the Black Sea and in 1926 was posted as an instructor to Flinders Naval Depot, near Melbourne.

It was on the passenger liner to Australia that he met his future wife Ethel, who died three years ago.

He transferred to the Royal Australian Navy and after a brief spell in the reserves rejoined as a Chief Petty Officer in 1932.

Claude Choules had a very impressive military career
[Picture: via MOD]

During the Second World War, Mr Choules was chief demolition officer for the western half of Australia; it would have been his responsibility to blow up the key strategic harbour of Fremantle, near Perth, if Japan had invaded.

Mr Choules joined the Naval Dockyard Police after finishing his service.

Despite his impressive military career, Mr Choules became a pacifist. He was known to have disagreed with the celebration of Australia's most important war memorial holiday, Anzac Day, and refused to march in the annual commemoration parades.

He took a creative writing course at the age of 80 and recorded his memoirs for his family which formed the basis of his autobiography, 'The Last of the Last', which was published in 2009.

Mr Coules is survived by three children, 11 grandchildren, 26 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.

The last three British male First World War veterans living in the UK - Bill Stone, Henry Allingham and Harry Patch - all died in 2009.

Another Briton, Florence Green, who turned 110 in February and was a waitress in the Women's Royal Air Force, is now thought to be the world's last known surviving Service member of the First World War.

There is a video (by AlJazeera English) here. From the Daily Mail online:

  • Watched 1918 surrender of the German High Seas Fleet from HMS Revenge
  • Water-loving Navy man only stopped his daily swim 10 years ago
  • Choules, nicknamed Chuckles, wrote his first book aged 108

He lied about his age to get into the Royal Navy when he was only 14.

By the time death finally caught up with Claude Choules yesterday he had reached 110 and was the last survivor of 70million men who fought in the Great War.

British-born Mr Choules, nicknamed ‘Chuckles’, died peacefully in a Western Australia nursing home. He had lived in the country since the 1920s.

'I've had the luckiest life in the world': Claude Choules pictured in 2009

'I've had the luckiest life in the world': World War I combat veteran Claude Choules, pictured in 2009, has died

More here.

Rest In Peace, Sir.

No comments: