06 May 2011

RIP: Claude Stanley Choules

Claude Stanley Choules
3 Mar 1901 – 5 May 2011

The last male veteran from World War I has died. ZUI this article from the Sydney Morning Herald:

Claude ''Chuckles'' Choules was the last-known combat veteran of World War I living in Australia and the last surviving Anglo-Australian to have served in both world wars.

He was also the last surviving sailor of World War I and served in both the Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Navy. In fact, he was only two days younger than the RAN, which was established on March 1, 1901.


Claude Stanley Choules, who held dual British and Australian nationality, was born on March 3, 1901, at Wyre Piddle, Pershore, in Worcestershire, one of five children of Madelin and Henry, a haberdasher and gambler.


Choules dropped out of school at 14 and fibbed about his age to join the navy in 1915. The previous year he had tried to join the army as a bugle boy when he learnt that his brothers, Douglas and Leslie, were serving in the British Army. Both had fought at Gallipoli before going on to fight on the Western Front in France, where Douglas was gassed and died a year later and Leslie won the Military Medal for bravery.

After initial training on HMS Impregnable, at one time a 140-gun square-rigged wooden battleship, Choules served in the North Sea on HMS Revenge, flagship of the Royal Navy's first battle squadron.


Between 1920 and 1923, Choules served in the Mediterranean before being seconded with 11 other Royal Navy personnel to come to Australia in 1926 on loan to the RAN as an instructor at Flinders Naval Depot on the Mornington Peninsula.

On the way to Australia, on the passenger ship SS Diogenes, Choules met Ethel Wildgoose, a Scot on her way to Melbourne, and they married not long after.

Choules asked for a permanent transfer to the RAN. He returned to Britain for courses to qualify as a chief torpedo and anti-submarine instructor and he was also on duty for the construction of the RAN's heavy cruisers, Australia and Canberra. He was part of the commissioning crew of HMAS Canberra, in which he served until 1931.

Choules took his discharge from the RAN that year but remained in the reserve; he rejoined the RAN the following year as a torpedo and anti-submarine instructor, with the rank of chief petty officer. During World War II, he served as the RAN's senior demolition expert in Western Australia.


Ethel Choules died in 2006, aged 98, and Claude spent his last years at the Gracewood Hostel at Salter Point in Perth.

His death follows that of American Frank Buckles, who died in February, also aged 110, and who, until then, had been the oldest surviving veteran of World War I. He'd been an ambulance driver near the Western Front. The last Briton to serve in the trenches on the Western Front, Harry Patch, died on July 25, 2009, aged 111. The last Australian World War I Digger, Jack Ross, died in 2009, aged 109.

Claude Choules is survived by his children, Daphne, Anne and Adrian, 13 grandchildren, 26 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.

ZUI also this article from The Telegraph.

Choules's death leaves 110-year-old Florence Green, who served in the Women's Royal Air Force, as the only remaining veteran of the First World War.

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