Last World War I veteran dies aged 110

The last know combat veteran of the First World War has died at the age of 110, his family said today.

British-born Claude Stanley Choules, who was known as "Chuckles" by his comrades, joined the Royal Navy aged just 14 and witnessed the scuttling of the German fleet at Scapa Flow in 1919.

He emigrated to Australia in the 1920s and served in the military for 41 years before retiring and publishing his first book at the age of 108.

Mr Choules's family said he passed away today at a nursing home in the western Australian city of Perth.

Following his death, his daughter Daphne Edinger, 84, 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."

The father-of-three was born in Pershore, Worcestershire, on March 3 1901, six weeks after the death of Queen Victoria, and was one of seven children.

He signed up for naval training in 1915, just one month after his 14th birthday, and at 16 joined the battleship HMS Revenge - part of the British Grand Fleet based at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands.

While serving on Revenge he witnessed the surrender of the German fleet at the Firth of Forth, on Scotland's east coast, on November 21, 1918.

Mr Choules, who claimed the secret to a long life was simply to "keep breathing", was also present at Scapa Flow on June 21, 1919 when the Germans scuttled all their warships so they would not fall into British hands.

He remained with the Royal Navy after the war and in 1926 was posted as an instructor to Flinders Naval Depot, near Melbourne, Australia.

While on board the passenger liner that took him to Australia, he met his future wife Ethel.

They were married on December 3, 1926 and later settled in Western Australia.

Mr Choules decided to transfer permanently to the Royal Australian Navy and during the Second World War he was appointed chief demolition officer for the western half of Australia.

He later transferred to the Naval Dockyard Police and remained in the Australian navy until his retirement at the age of 55, before going on to publish his autobiography, The Last of the Last, in 2009.

His wife died in 2003 at the age of 98 after they had been married for 76 years, and he spent his final years in a nursing home.

"His family was the most important thing in his life," his other daughter, Anne Pow, said in a 2010 interview.

Mr Choules and another Briton, Florence Green, became the war's last known surviving service members after the death of American Frank Buckles in February, according to the Order of the First World War, a US-based group that tracks veterans.

Mr Choules was the last known surviving combatant of the war.

Ms Green, who turned 110 in February, served as a waitress in the Women's Royal Air Force.

Mr Choules leaves behind three children, Daphne, Anne and Adrian, all aged in their 70s and 80s.

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