Thursday, May 05, 2011

The last of the last.

The last surviving combat veteran of the First World War, Claude Stanley Choules, died today in Australia at the age of 110. Here's more from The Telegraph:
And then there were none. The death of Claude Choules at the age of 110 marks the passing of the generation that fought in the First World War. The last American veteran, Frank Buckles, died in February. Franz Künstler, of Austria-Hungary, was the sole surviving Central Powers combatant when he died in 2008, the same year that the long life of Pierre Picault, France’s oldest soldier, came to an end.

Mr Choules, who during his 41-year naval career also fought in the Second World War, had – perhaps understandably – become increasingly pacifist in his dotage and reticent about discussing his experiences, a characteristic shared by many survivors of those terrible conflicts. Not until he reached the age of 108 did he agree to the publication of his memoirs, The Last of the Last. He was born in England, just two months after the death of Queen Victoria, but spent much of his life in Australia. He disliked any suggestion that he was a hero; and, indeed, his fame was more a result of his longevity than any particular act of derring-do. But what has gone with Mr Choules is what he represented: an extant reminder of an event that changed the civilised world more than any other since the Reformation. So many aspects of our lives today were shaped by that titanic conflict. Its scars and its legacy were deep and enduring.

Now there is no longer a single combatant alive, it is important that we do not forget the sacrifice and suffering of a war that claimed the lives of many millions, a slaughter that is almost impossible to comprehend today. While there have been many wars since the guns fell silent in 1918, there will always be a special place in our annual Remembrance ceremonies for the generation that served alongside Claude Choules.
Eternal memory! AMDG.


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