The last known survivor of the 70 million men who fought in the First World War has died, a pacifist, at the age of 110.

Claude Stanley Choules, known to his friends as "Chuckles", was born in Pershore, Worcestershire, and served in the Royal Navy. He spent his final years in a nursing home in Perth, Western Australia.

As he grew older and became one of the last surviving combat veterans, he became well known, and in 2009 he published a book about his life called The Last Of The Last. He declared himself a pacifist and declined to take part in Australia's popular remembrance parades.

His son, Adrian, said: "He served in two wars but he hated war - he just saw it as a job."

Mr Choules' family confirmed he died peacefully. His 84-year-old daughter, Daphne Edinger, said: "We all loved him. It's going to be sad to think of him not being here any longer, but that's the way things go."

COMMENT: When I was a child I knew many men who had fought in WWI and many who had fought in both World Wars. I grew up knowing all about the horrors of war as my mother was always truthful in her answers to my questions about the old men who would walk around the small town I lived in, muttering to themselves and occasionally shouting out curses against Germans and, more often, the Japanese.

The two wars were close to me, not only in time, but in geography as well. Those black and white photos of the carnage on the battlefields of WWI were taken just a couple of hundred miles or so from where I lived.

Retired soldiers would give talks about the reality of war at my schools and at the churches I attended.

I learned at a very young age that war was not glamourous, that it was a very bad thing.

In England, we are rapidly losing that direct connection to the experience of war. Of course, our soldiers are fighting in Afghanistan and elsewhere, but not in anywhere near the numbers involved in the World Wars. So, their experiences will not be heard by many and will not become part of our collective memory as forcefully as the experiences of the soldiers who fought in the World Wars.

I do worry that as a nation's memory of the obscenity of war fades the more likely that nation is to consider war once more.



  1. R. I. P., Chuckles.

    The physically and mentally wounded from the present wars are amongst us, but mostly isolated from the masses of people. Those with mental illness all too often do not get the treatment they need, with the result that the suicide numbers are high. Of those who survive, there will be a good many living ruined lives. These are the hidden costs of war, which need to be brought into the light.

    Is it Eric Bogle singing the song?

  2. Around a quarter of the homeless people in the UK are ex-armed services. My daughter was briefly caught up in the fighting in Sierra Leone when she was 11. That was in 1996, and she still has nightmares. Not long after she arrived I found her hiding behind the kitchen door, hallucinating and seeing soldiers in the living room.

  3. Memory eternal “Chuckles”, as well as Charles King Fisher Sr and Carroll Earl Beauchamp Peeke Sr: my two grandfathers, who both served in the Great War.

  4. My Grandfather was a frontline medic in WWI.
    I had an older relative who was at Pearl Harbor, and on the Arizona, on 12/7/1941, and lived to tell about it. Two more ships went down under him in the Pacific during WWII.
    My step-grandfather was Danish, and lost family during the German occupation of Denmark.
    I have an old friend in Saint Louis who was a young girl in Bologna during the German occupation from 1943 to 1945. Her father was a fighter with the Italian partisans.