Claude Choules 1901- 2011
Britain's last WWI veteran commissioned HMAS Canberra 1
CPO Claude Choules
Britain's last surviving WWI veteran, who went on to fight for the Australian navy in WWII, has notched another accolade - as a first-time author at the age of 108.Claude Choules, who is also the last known Great War veteran living in Australia, enlisted with Britain's Royal Navy at just 15 in 1916 and later served with HMS Revenge.
Now living in a Perth retirement village, his autobiography, The Last of the Last, was released nationally on November 2. His publisher, Peter Bridge, told AAP the book followed the war veteran from his idyllic childhood in England, growing up near the River Avon in Worcestershire, before moving to Australia in 1926.
"Claude's book is unique, in not only the fact that he's probably the oldest first-time published author in the world, but also his military service in both world wars is very interesting," Mr Bridge said.
"His job was to blow up the Fremantle port if the Japanese invaded, which they were thought to be very close to at one stage."Mr Choules' son, Adrian Choules, spoke to the ABC on Remembrance Day, saying his father's active military service in both world wars was remarkable.
"My understanding is that there are four people, a Turk, a Canadian, a United States person and my father. (They are) the four people left who actually served during the first world war.
"My father was the only one of those four who actually saw combat."
In his home state of WA, hundreds of people, including WA Governor Ken Michael, gathered at a Remembrance Day ceremony in Kings Park.Four RAAF aircraft - from the flying training school at Pearce air force base - flew over those who had gathered in Kings Park to mark the day.
Born in Wyre Piddle, England, in March 1901, Mr Choules served with Britain's Royal Navy after joining the HMS Impregnable in 1916. He joined the battleship HMS Revenge in 1917 and witnessed the surrender of the German Fleet near Firth of Forth, Scotland, in 1918.
Mr Choules travelled to Australia with the Royal Navy in 1926 to work as an instructor at Flinders Naval Depot before transferring to the Royal Australian Navy (RAN).
He was a commissioning crew member of the HMAS Canberra and served with her until 1931 when he discharged from the RAN before rejoining as a torpedo and anti-submarine instructor in 1932.
HMAS Canberra 1 - Petty Officers 1929
As the acting torpedo officer at Fremantle in WWII, Mr Choules disposed of the first German mine to wash up on Australian soil during WWII, near Esperance, on WA's south coast.He was also tasked with destroying harbour and oil storage tanks at the Fremantle port in case of a Japanese invasion.
Mr Choules remained in the RAN after WWII, spending his final working years at the Naval Dockyard Police and joining the crayfishing industry, at Safety Bay, south of Perth.According to news sources, American Frank Buckles, 108, and Canadian John Babcock, 109, who both live in the United States are alive but neither saw active combat.
Interview with Claude Choules...More
Oldest recipient of the Australian Defence Medal
CAPT Brett Dowsing RAN presents ADM to Claude
In November 2009, a new chapter was written in the extraordinary life of naval veteran Claude Choules, when at the age of 108 he became the oldest recipient of the Australian Defence Medal. The medal was presented to Mr Choules by the Commanding Officer of HMAS Stirling, Captain Brett Dowsing RAN.
Mr Choules initially served in the Royal Navy between 1916 and 1926. He witnessed the surrender of the German High Seas Fleet at Scapa Flow in November 1918, and is now regarded as Britain’s last surviving World War I veteran.
In 1926 he was loaned to the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and subsequently obtained
approval to transfer permanently to the RAN. Mr Choules’ service in Australia’s naval forces spanned three decades. This included service in the RAN (1926- 31), Royal Australian Fleet Reserve (1931-32), RAN Auxiliary Service (1932-1950) and the Naval Dockyard Police (1950-56).
The Australian Defence Medal was established in 2006 to recognise members of the Australian Defence Force who have, since 3 September 1945, served a minimum of four years, or an initial enlistment period, whichever is the lesser. Mr Choules qualified for the Australian Defence Medal as he completed a minimum of four years service after 3 September 1945.
In addition to campaign medals for service in both world wars, Mr Choules has also been awarded the Naval Long Service and Good Conduct Medal with Clasp, the 1953 Coronation Medal and the Centenary Medal.
The Directorate is pleased to announce that Mr Claude Choules has recently celebrated his 109th birthday with family and good friends.
Defence Honours and Awards April 2010
Last living' WWI veteran turns 110
Lied about his age: Claude Choules in the Royal Navy
The man believed to be the world's last living male veteran of World War I will celebrate his 110th birthday in Perth today.
British-born Claude "Chuckles" Choules was born in 1901 and signed up for the Great War at just 14 years of age, serving in the British Royal Navy.
He then moved to Australia, serving as an officer with the Australian Navy in World War II.
Mr Choules, who lives in a Perth nursing home, will mark his birthday just days after the death of American Frank Buckles made him the conflict's last surviving male veteran.
He lied about his age to join the Royal Navy - later witnessing the 1919 scuttling of the German fleet at Scapa Flow.
Mr Choules became the 1914-1918 war's last surviving combatant after Mr Buckles' death at 110 on Sunday. British veterans Henry Allingham and Harry Patch, aged 110 and 113 respectively, both died in 2009.
The only other surviving WWI veteran is believed to be Britain's Florence Green, who served with the Royal Air Force in a non-combat role and is now 110 years old.
Mr Choules moved to Australia in 1926 and served in the RAN, he commissioned HMAS Canberra 1 in 1928 in the United Kingdom and served in the ship until 1931.
HMAS Canberra 1
He then became a chief demolition officer for Australia's vast western coastline, which was then considered vulnerable to attack from the Japanese.
Adrian Choules said his father, who was born in Wyre Piddle in the English Midlands on March 3, 1901, had been taught to think "that the Germans ... were monsters, terrible people" after joining the navy.
But he soon after realised "they were exactly the same as any young people".
"And he hated war. War for him was a way of making a living, that was his job," Adrian Choules said.
Adrian Choules says when his father talked about his life he rarely mentioned his war experiences, adding that the only military marches he participated in were when he was a serviceman.
"He wasn't interested in war, war to him was a terrible thing," he said.
Mr Choules's daughter, Anne Pow, says while her father is not too fussed about today's milestone, his family, friends and some representatives from the Navy will mark the occasion with a small birthday party.
"We're delighted for him. It's hard to be really excited when you're 110 and you're blind and deaf," she said.
Mr Choules published a book about his life, The Last of the Last, in 2009...More
NAVY’S OLDEST CELEBRATES 110TH BIRTHDAY
3 March 2011 By Mr Gary Booth
Portrait of World War One Navy Veteran Mr Claude Choules sitting in the Gracewood Retirement Village loungeroom in Salter Point, Western Australia.
On behalf of the Royal Australian Navy, Vice Admiral Russ Crane Chief of Navy, has congratulated Claude Choules on his 110th birthday.
Claude the only surviving former serviceman of World War I and II, celebrated his 110th birthday today, surrounded by family and friends, along with a small group of personnel from HMAS Stirling at the Perth retirement village where he now lives.
Captain Brett Wolski, Commanding Officer HMAS Stirling, in wishing Claude a very happy birthday on behalf of the Chief of Navy and the wider Navy family, described Claude as a ‘living national treasure’.
Speaking on behalf of her father, daughter Anne said: ‘Dad was always proud of his Navy service and considered it his other family. We are grateful for the Navy’s continued association with our father and family.’
Claude Choules Funeral 20 May 2011
Remembering Claude 1901-2011
Hundreds of mourners flocked to St John’s Church and lined the streets of Fremantle for the funeral of Claude Choules this morning, the world's last World War I fighter.
The 110-year-old veteran of both world wars, who passed away peacefully in his bed at Salter Point two weeks ago, was remembered by family and friends as a humble man who hated war and above all else loved his family.
Standing next to a shawl belonging to his father’s beloved wife of 76 years Ethel, who died in 2006 aged 98, Mr Choules’ son Adrian said the funeral was a celebration of a “wonderful life”.
“Really, today is a double funeral for that very precious fellow we know, but it’s also a funeral for the guy who now belongs to the rest of the world.”
With a catch in his throat Adrian farewelled the man who had survived a tumultuous decade and lived to see 39 direct descendants into the world; including two great-great-grandchildren.
“Goodbye old man, and thanks for everything.”
Mr Choules’ daughter Anne Pow, remembered the man behind the legend, a loving family man who loved the sea.
Dignitaries including the Defence Minister Stephen Smith and Premier Colin Barnett attended.
Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Russ Crane said the funeral marked the closure of a chapter in history.
“Today represents that break from people who were there and those who remember them.”
The ceremony, which concluded with a 12-gun salute and mournful rendition of The Last Post, drew hundreds of onlookers.
People lined Adelaide Street in the rain, watching silently as the funeral procession passed at a slow march between a saluting bodyguard of 100 sailors.
Looking fragile but graceful, Mr Choules’ daughters Anne Pow and Daphne Edinger led the long line of family trailing behind the hearse.
The last navy man in the line to salute the last of more than 70 million combatants who mobilised during the Great War globally, Chief Petty Officer Greg Morris, could only manage a few words.
Inside the church, artwork by Mr Choules' grandson Lindsay Pow depicting the 110-year-old veteran, adorned the high alter.
While many came to mourn the legend, family and veterans remembered the man.
A retired army captain said Mr Choules was a humble and straight forward bloke.
"They didn't call Claude chuckles for nothing. He saw humour in everything."
St John's Church has been the scene of many Choules' family weddings and christenings.
Born in Britain and raised in Wyre Piddle, Mr Choules joined the Royal Navy in 1915 at 14.
He settled in Fremantle after he was seconded to the Royal Australian Navy in 1926 and is recognised as the only living veteran who served in both world wars.
Blind and almost totally deaf, Mr Choules "hated war" and only marched in Anzac Day parades when he was ordered to.
Mr Choules recorded many of the twists and turns of his long life in his autobiography The Last of the Last.
It is a tale of the scrapes and misadventures of a small boy in a small English village, of life on the high seas, of war and war's aftermath, life in suburban Perth when there were few suburbs, of messing about in boats. And family.
"My family is the most important thing, " he told The West Australian in a 2009 interview.
Claude's mother left their home when he was five to go back on the stage and he never saw her again. His two sisters went to live with relatives, leaving just Claude and his brothers Douglas and Leslie at home with father Harry. Soon there was just Claude at home after his brothers moved to Western Australia in 1911.
Leslie and Douglas answered the call in the first month of WWI, joining the Australian Imperial Force and surviving the Gallipoli landing.
Inspired by their "very exciting" letters, Claude couldn't wait until he was 14 and able to leave school to follow in their footsteps.
After his bid to join the army as a bugler was rejected, he was accepted on to a training ship a month after his 14th birthday.
Claude thrived and at 16 joined the British Grand Fleet aboard HMS Revenge.
After Armistice Day ended hostilities, Claude saw much of the enemy fleet go down at Scapa Flow after the Germans, anxious to keep their vessels out of British hands, scuttled their own ships.
In 1926, Claude was part of a group of Royal Navy instructors seconded to the Royal Australian Navy. On the way to Australia on the passenger ship SS Diogenes, Claude was struck by "a tall brunette with dark brown eyes, a real stunner".
The young lady concerned was on her way to Melbourne. And so it was that Ethel Wildgoose, 21, a children's nurse from Scotland, met her future husband. After 76 years together Ethel died in 2003, aged 98.
The lure of WA was strong, and the family settled in Fremantle. Yet war was not done with the world, nor with Claude.
As World War II engulfed the region, Chief Petty Officer Choules was again serving his nation's cause, wiring up merchant ships in Fremantle Harbour in case they had to be scuttled in the event of a Japanese landing and clearing Broome anchorage of bombed flying boats.
And after war's end, there was still work to be done at sea, crayfishing. And teaching a new generation about boats."I have had a happy life," he said from his home at the Gracewood Hostel in Salter point in 2009. "I don't think there was anything in my life I would wish had not happened."
JOSEPH CATANZARO, The West Australian May 20, 2011, 10:09 am
Honour for last veteran
A navy honour guard and 12-gun salute will be part of the funeral for Claude Choules, the WA man said to be the last combat veteran of World War I.
Mr Choules, who died peacefully in his sleep on Tuesday last week, about two months after his 110th birthday, will receive a formal navy funeral at St John's Church in Fremantle next Friday.
Invited dignitaries include Julia Gillard, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and Governor-General Quentin Bryce.
World loses last World War I combat veteran after death of Claude Choules
Petty Officer Claude Cloules in HMAS Canberra 1929
History's last living link with the battlefields of World War I has been broken with the death of 110-year-old digger Claude Choules.
Mr Choules, who celebrated his 110th birthday in March, was believed to be the world's last surviving WWI combat veteran.
His daughter Daphne Edinger confirmed Mr Choules - nicknamed ''Chuckles'' by comrades - died in his Perth nursing home last night.
Mr Choules was declared the last known male survivor of more than 70 million military personnel during WWI, after American veteran Frank Buckles passed away earlier this year, also aged 110.
The only other surviving WWI veteran is believed to be Britain's Florence Green, who served with the Royal Air Force in a non-combat role and is now aged 110.
Son Adrian Choules said this morning that he had been overwhelmed with phone calls offering condolences. But he said it was not a time to mourn but to celebrate his father's life and the memories of the good times they shared.
With three children, 13 grandchildren, 26 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren, Mr Choules has left behind a dedicated family, full of rich and loving memories.
"He treated his family very, very well, and so they all responded by looking after him very well," Adrian said.
"He knew you only get out what you put in, and he was a fine example of that. He was a good family man.
"He's certainly going to leave a gap in our family; his grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will all remember him very fondly."
Adrian Choules said his father did not speak highly of war, and he was renowned for flouting Anzac Day parades. As the years passed, Mr Choules refused to be interviewed, and shunned the very thing that made him who he was – the great wars.
"He always said that the old men make the decisions that send the young men into war," Adrian said.
"He used to say, if it was the other way around, and the old pollies were off fighting, then there would never be any wars."
Decorated service career
Born in England in 1901, Mr Choules served with Britain's Royal Navy onboard the HMS Impregnable in 1916 at the age of 15.
He joined the battleship HMS Revenge in 1917 and witnessed the surrender of the German Fleet near Firth of Forth in Scotland in 1918.
Mr Choules moved to Fremantle where he was seconded to the Royal Australian Navy in 1926.
He was a commissioning crew member of the HMAS Canberra and served with the vessel until 1931 when he discharged from the RAN before rejoining as a torpedo and anti-submarine instructor in 1932.
As the acting torpedo officer at Fremantle in WWII, Mr Choules disposed of the first German mine to wash up on Australian soil during WWII, near Esperance on WA's south coast.
He was also tasked with destroying harbour and oil storage tanks at the Fremantle port in case of a Japanese invasion.
Mr Choules remained in the RAN after WWII, spending his final working years at the Naval Dockyard Police and joining the crayfishing industry at Safety Bay, south of Perth.
Australia's oldest man
At 107, he was told by his doctors that he wouldn't see out his next birthday. He defied those odds when he became a super-centenarian, and Australia's oldest man, in March this year.
"He stretches back into Australian history; the past 110 years are probably the most significant for the history of the country, and he was here for all of that," Adrian Choules said.
"Through his service, he developed the two important parts of his personality there, his loyalty and his conscientiousness.
"His loyalty to the people that were employing him, the British Government and then the Royal Australian Navy, and he was very loyal to his family as well.
"There was only was way to survive all that he did, and that was to be conscientious and very careful, and by not taking any risks."
Commemorating his life
On behalf of the Royal Australian Navy, Vice Admiral Russ Crane, Chief of Navy expressed his condolences to the Choules family at the passing of Claude Choules.
Captain Brett Wolski, Commanding Officer HMAS Stirling, said that the loss of Claude Choules to the wider Navy family was considerable.
"Our thoughts are with Claude's family at this sad time," he said.
"Claude served in the Royal Navy during WWI and then with the Royal Australian Navy in WWII. His career has spanned some of the most significant events in maritime history this century."
Adrian Choules said the family was overwhelmed with the tributes flowing in for his father, and said he had been reflecting on some of their good times with his family.
"He was a keen crayfisherman; my kids have wonderful memories of playing around in little boats with him down near Safety Bay," he said.
"That was a great part of their growing up.
"He always valued education; my two sisters both went to university at a time when there were plenty of parents who said, 'Why bother educating women when they're only going to be someone's wife'.
"These sorts of values will be remembered. The things that he did for his family, he put them first.
"Yesterday he was a celebrity, he was the oldest man in Australia. Today, someone else is that man."
Dennis Connelly, editor of The Listening Post, the official journal of the Returned Services League of Australia said it is a sad day for the country.
"He did lead a very full life," Mr Connelly said.
"He has had quite a life; it is quite the story to tell, and somebody should be telling that story.
"I remember I tried to interview him once, and his daughter actually told me that there was already enough information out there, there was nothing to add to it.
"He was a recluse in the later years of his life."
Mr Connelly said he expected crowds in the hundreds to turn out to pay their respects to Mr Choules on what will be "a very big occasion for the last World War I vet".
Mr Choules released his autobiography in 2009 titled The Last of the Last, depicting his childhood and move to Australia, as well as his times at war.
Mr Choules, who was blind and almost completely deaf, hated war and only marched in Anzac Day parades when he was ordered to, his son said.
He and his wife, who passed away at the age of 98, had two daughters and a son. Mr Choules also had 13 grandchildren, 26 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.
The funeral and service for Mr Choules would be arranged by the Royal Australian Navy which has volunteered host the event. It will be held at St John's Church in Fremantle, but a date has not yet been set.
May 5, 2011
HMAS Choules, named in honour of WW 1 Veteran and HMAS Canberra 1 Commissioing Crew
THE name of the last World War I veteran, Claude Choules, is to live on in a RAN ship that has served two navies, just like him.
Mr Choules, who died in Western Australia on May 5 aged 110, was the last known veteran who saw active service in WW1. Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced today the former United Kingdom Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel Largs Bay is to be commissioned as HMAS Choules.
Mr Choules served in the Royal Navy in WWI and moved to Australia as an instructor on loan and then transferred to the RAN.
He was a commissioning crew member of HMAS Canberra and served with the vessel until 1931, when he was discharged from the RAN before he rejoined as a torpedo and anti-submarine instructor in 1932.
As the acting torpedo officer at Fremantle, Mr Choules disposed of the first German mine to wash up on Australian soil during WWII, near Esperance, on WA's south coast. He was also tasked with destroying harbour and oil storage tanks at the Fremantle port in the event of a Japanese invasion.
His service totalled 40 years. Ms Gillard said naming the ship HMAS Choules recognised the service of a loyal and dedicated man in two different Navies over 40 years.“Mr Choules and his generation made a tremendous sacrifice for our freedom that we will never forget,” she said
Defence Minister Stephen Smith said Mr Choules was proud of his naval service.
HMAS Choules is due to arrive in Australia in December for commissioning into the RAN.
“As with Mr Choules, HMAS Choules will serve Australia having completed service in the fleet of the Royal Navy,” Mr Smith said.
The federal government announced it would purchase the landing ship dock from the UK in April this year. The 16,000 tonne HMAS Choules was commissioned into service in 2006 and became surplus to UK requirements as a result of the British government's strategic defence review.
Its flight deck has room for two large helicopters and can also carry around 150 light trucks and 350 troops.
It was used to provide humanitarian relief as part of the international response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
The vessel was acquired for about $100 million and is expected to be operational in early 2012 while Australia awaits the completion of its own ship landing docks in Spain.