SYDNEY, Australia (AP) — Claude Stanley Choules, the last known combat veteran of World War I, died on Thursday in a nursing home in Western Australia. He was 110.
His death was confirmed by his daughter Daphne Edinger, 84.
Mr. Choules was defiant of the tolls of time, a centenarian who swam in the sea, twirled across dance floors and published his first book at well past 100. He also became a pacifist, refusing to march in parades commemorating wars like the one that made him famous.
Mr. Choules (rhymes with jewels) was born March 3, 1901, in the small British town of Pershore, Worcestershire, one of seven children.
World War I was raging when Mr. Choules began training with the British Royal Navy, just one month after he turned 14. In 1917 he joined the battleship H.M.S. Revenge, from which he watched the 1918 surrender of the German High Seas Fleet, the main battle fleet of the German Navy during the war.
“There was no sign of fight left in the Germans as they came out of the mist at about 10 a.m.,” Mr. Choules wrote in his autobiography, “The Last of the Last,” published last year. The German flag, he recalled, was hauled down at sunset.
“So ended the most momentous day in the annals of naval warfare,” he wrote. “A fleet of ships surrendered without firing a shot.”
Mr. Choules and another Briton, Florence Green, became the war’s last known surviving service members after the death of Frank Buckles, an American, in February, according to the Order of the First World War, a United States-based group that tracks veterans. Ms. Green, who turned 110 in February, was a waitress in the Women’s Royal Air Force.
Mr. Choules’s wife of 76 years, the former Ethel Wildgoose, died in 2003 at 98. He is survived by his three children, Daphne, Anne and Adrian.
Mr. Choules eventually settled in Australia and served in the Navy there until he retired in 1956.
During World War II, he was the acting torpedo officer in Fremantle, Western Australia, and chief demolition officer for the western side of the Australian continent. Mr. Choules disposed of the first mine to wash ashore in Australia during the war.
Despite the fame his military service (and longevity) brought him, Mr. Choules became a pacifist later in life, refusing to glorify war.
In his 80s, he took a creative writing course at the urging of his children and decided to record his memoirs for his family. The memoirs formed the basis of his autobiography.
Even after he turned 100, he remained healthy and active, and continued to dance until a few years ago. He liked to start each day with a bowl of porridge and occasionally indulged in his favorite treats: mango juice and chocolate.