Genealogy Trails



The "Last" World War 1 Veterans
WW1 Infantryman
The Last Nine

A March 13, 2008 news article from "The Australian"
listed the last nine veterans worldwide of WW1:
(Ages are as of 2008)

Henry Allingham of Britain, aged 111. The only survivor to have served from beginning to end of the conflict, he started in the Royal Navy and then ended in the Air Force, seeing action at the Somme. [Died July 18, 2009]

Yakup Satar of Turkey, aged 109. Signed up in 1915 for the Ottoman Army, worked with the Germans, notably on gas weapons, and was captured in 1917 in what is now Iraq. [Died April 2, 2008]

Delfino Borroni of Italy, 109. Joined an elite unit in 1917 and notably fought against Austro-Hungarian forces in the Tyrol. [died October 26, 2008]

Francesco Chiarello, also of Italy, 109. Called up in 1918 and saw action in his country's final battles of the war. [died June 27, 2008]

Franz Kuenstler of Germany, aged 107. Joined a Hungarian artillery unit in February 1918, and served in Italy. Only survivor of the Austro-Hungarian forces. [died May 27, 2008]

Harry Patch of Britain, 109. Called up in 1917 and saw action in the trenches of the Belgian front, including during the murderous 3rd Battle of Ypres. Injured by a shell in the same year. [died July 25, 2009]

John Babcock of Canada, aged 107. Was sent to Britain as a junior soldier with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1917, but did not see action because he was too young. [Died February 18, 2010]

Frank Buckles, United States, 107. Joined up by lying about his age when his country entered the war in 1917 and served as an ambulance driver in England and France. Never saw combat [Died 27 Feb 2011]

Claude Choules of Britain, aged 106. Joined the Royal Navy in 1916 and served in the North Sea while only a teenager.

In January 2010, Florence Green, nee Patterson, was identified as a Great War veteran. She served in the Women's British Royal Air Force, joining September 1918. Her status in the WRAF qualified her as a veteran, and in 2011 with the death of Frank Buckles, she became one of the last two known remaining WW1 veterans in the world.

Still alive in March of 2011, she is West Norfolk's oldest resident, the second oldest person in Norfolk, and one of the 10 oldest people in Britain.

The last American-born veteran was Frank Woodruff Buckles of Charles Town, West Virginia, who died 27 Feb 2011

The last remaining five American veterans were:
(ages are as of 2007 - Click name to read obit):
Frank Buckles, 106 of Charles Town, WV
Lloyd Brown, 105, of Charlotte Hall, MD
Russell Coffey, 108, of North Baltimore, Ohio
Harry Landis, 107 of Sun City Center, Florida
Charlotte Winters
, 109 of Boonsboro, MD

World War 1

Canada's Last Veteran:
On 07/23/09,
John Babcock, Canada's last known WW1 Veteran, celebrated his 109th birthday. (Died February 18, 2010)

Britain's Last Soldiers:
Florence Green, who served with the Royal Air Force in a non-combat role.
Still living, aged 110 in March 2011

Harry Patch
- last combat soldier

Bill Stone - last sailor (died 10 January 2009, aged 108)

Henry Allingham - last Royal Air Force member (and world's oldest man when he died July 18, 2009)

The last veteran: Lazare Ponticelli, 110, died 12 Mar 2008
Louis de Cazenave, died 20 Jan 2008, age 110

Claude Stanley Choules
(born 3 March 1901) the last seaman from World War I, and the last veteran in the world to have served in both world wars [Aged 110, as of 4 Mar 2011]

Last German Veteran:
Erich Kaestner

Oldest U.S. WWI Vet Dies in Ohio at 109
By JOHN SEEWER, Associated Press Writer, 21 Dec 2007

TOLEDO, Ohio -
J. Russell Coffey, the oldest known surviving U.S. veteran of World War I, has died. The retired teacher, one of only three U.S. veterans from the "war to end all wars," was 109. Coffey died Thursday at the Briar Hill Health Campus in North Baltimore, where he had lived for the past four or five years, said Gaye Boggs, nursing director at the nursing home. No cause of death has been determined, she said Friday. His health began failing in October. "We're sure going to miss him," Boggs said. "He was our most famous resident, that's for sure."
More than 4.7 million Americans joined the military from 1917-1918. Coffey never saw combat because he was still in basic training when the war ended. The two remaining U.S. veterans are Frank Buckles, 106, of Charles Town, W.Va.; and Harry Richard Landis, 108, of Sun City Center, Fla., according to the Veterans Affairs Department. In addition, John Babcock, 107, of Spokane, Wash., served in the Canadian army and is the last known Canadian veteran of the war.
Interest in World War I survivors grew over the past year as their numbers dwindled. The last living links to the war, the U.S. veterans received honors and did a flurry of interviews. In May, Buckles was a grand marshal of the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, D.C., riding in the back of a car. But Coffey once confided to his daughter, Betty Jo Larsen, that he wished people would remember his contributions rather than his old age. "He told me 'even a prune can get old,'" she said last spring. She died in September.
Coffey had enlisted in the Army while he was a student at Ohio State University in October 1918, a month before the Allied powers and Germany signed a cease-fire agreement. He was discharged a month after the war ended. His two older brothers fought overseas, and he was disappointed at the time that the war ended before he shipped out. But he told The Associated Press in April 2007: "I think I was good to get out of it."
Born Sept. 1, 1898, Coffey played semipro baseball in Akron, earned a doctorate in education from New York University, taught in high school and college and raised a family. He delivered newspapers as a youngster and would read the paper to immigrants, his daughter said. "That was the beginning of him being a teacher," she said. Coffey returned to Ohio State University after he left the Army and received two degrees there. He said he loved teaching. "I could see results," he said. "I could see improvement." He taught junior high and high school in Phelps, Ky., and Findlay. He then taught physical education at Bowling Green State University from 1948 until 1969.
He had a remarkable memory and was independent, his daughter said. He drove his car until he was 104, and lived in his own home until a year later. He was a swimmer and credited healthy eating and exercise for his longevity. His wife, Bernice, whom he married in 1921, died in 1993. Larsen was their only child. Among the other World War I veterans who died this year were Emiliano Mercado del Toro, 115, who ranked as world's oldest person for the last weeks of his life, and Charlotte Winters, 109, the last known American female veteran of the war.
All were Army veterans.

Harry Richard Landis
TAMPA, Fla. — Harry Richard Landis, who enlisted in the Army in 1918 and was one of only two known surviving U.S. veterans of World War I, has died. He was 108. Landis, who lived at a Sun City Center nursing home, died Monday, according to Donna Riley, his caregiver for the past five years. He had recently been in the hospital with a fever and low blood pressure, she said. "He only took vitamins and eye drops, no other medication," Riley said Wednesday. "He was 108 and a healthy man. That's why all of this was sudden and unexpected. He was so full of life."
The remaining U.S. veteran is Frank Buckles, 107, of Charles Town, W.Va., according the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. In addition, John Babcock of Spokane, Wash., 107, served in the Canadian army and is the last known Canadian veteran of the war. Another World War I vet, Ohioan J. Russell Coffey, died in December at 109. The last known German World War I veteran, Erich Kaestner, died New Year's Day at 107.
Landis trained as a U.S. Army recruit for 60 days at the end of the war and never went overseas. But the VA counts him among the 4.7 million men and woman who served during the Great War. The last time all known U.S. veterans of a war died was Sept. 10, 1992, when Spanish-American War veteran Nathan E. Cook passed away at age 106.
In an interview with The Associated Press in April in his Sun City Center apartment, Landis recalled that his time in the Student Army Training Corps involved a lot of marching. VA records show his entry date into the service was Oct. 14, 1918.
"I don't remember too much about it," said Landis, who enlisted while in college in Fayette, Mo., at age 18. "We went to school in the afternoon and drilled in the morning." They often drilled in their street clothes. "We got our uniforms a bit at a time. Got the whole uniform just before the war ended," Landis said. "Fortunately, we got our great coats first. It was very cold out there. He told reporters in earlier interviews that he spent a lot of time cleaning up a makeshift sick ward and caring for recruits sickened by an influenza pandemic. When asked whether he had wanted to get into the fight, Landis said, "No."
When the war ended on Nov. 11, 1918, Landis recalled a final march with his unit.
"We went down through the girls college, marching down the street. We got down to the courthouse square and there was a wall around this courthouse. We got to the wall and (the drill instructor) didn't know what to do and we were hup, two, three, four, hup, two, three, four," Landis said, laughing at the memory. "Finally, we jumped up on the wall and kept going until we got to the courthouse — hup, two, three, four — and he said dismissed." He said he and some fellow recruits piled into a car to go to the next town. "What we did there, why we were there, I couldn't tell you," Landis said. He signed up to fight the Germans again in 1941, but at age 42 was rejected as too old. "I registered, but that's all there was to it," Landis said.
"I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Mr. Landis," said LeRoy Collins Jr., executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs. "He was the last World War I-era veteran in Florida, and with his passing we say goodbye to a generation."
Landis was born in 1899 in Marion County, Mo. After the war, he was a manager at S.S. Kresge Co., which later became Kmart, in Niagara Falls, N.Y., and Dayton, Ohio. His fondest memory was taking golf vacations with three friends and their families, a tradition that ended more than five decades ago with the death of his best friend. "We really looked forward to getting our old foursome together and going somewhere for a couple of weeks," Landis said. "Sadly, my favorite best friend lived until he was only 60 years old. We were like brothers. We could talk about business, serious things and we could act like a couple of kids." Landis retired to Florida's warmer climate in 1988 and lived in an assisted living center with his wife of 30 years, Eleanor. His first wife, Eunice, died after 46 years of marriage. Landis had no children. He said he enjoyed a good game of golf until his health kept him off the course. Landis laughed when asked the secret to his longevity.
"Just keep swinging," he said.

[Died Monday Feb 4, 2008] Obit from AP

Louis de Cazenave
French World War I Veteran Cazenave Dies

PARIS — World War I veteran Louis de Cazenave died Sunday at age 110, his son said, leaving just one known French survivor of the 1914-1918 conflict. De Cazenave, who took part in the Battle of the Somme, died in his home in Brioude in central France, said his son, also named Louis de Cazenave. "He died at his house, in his sleep, without suffering," the son said by telephone. He said his father was to be buried Tuesday in Brioude.
The last known French veteran of World War I — known as "poilus," meaning hairy or tough — is Lazare Ponticelli, also 110.
Born Oct. 16, 1897, de Cazenave was called up to fight in 1916 and served in different infantry regiments before joining an artillery unit in January 1918, according to a statement from the French president's office. De Cazenave took part in the Battle of the Somme in 1916, in which more than a million soldiers died, and in the liberation of France from German forces, the statement said. "His death is an occasion for all of us to think of the 1.4 million French who sacrificed their lives during this conflict, for the 4.5 million wounded, for the 8.5 million mobilized," President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a statement.
"This generation has only one remaining representative today."

[AP, January 20, 2008]

Erich Kaestner
The man believed to have been Germany's last World War I veteran has died peacefully at the age of 107.
Erich Kaestner, who at 18 was sent to the Western Front but served only four months in the army, died in a Cologne nursing home, his son said. The death on Sunday of Louis de Cazenave, France's second-last World War I veteran, made global headlines. But in a country that keeps no record of its veterans, Kaestner's death on 1 January went largely unnoticed.
"That is the way history has developed," said Peter Kaestner, the soldier's son. "In Germany, in this respect, things are kept quiet - they're not a big deal."
Erich Kaestner was unrelated to the writer and poet of the same name.

End of an era
Reports in Die Welt daily and Der Spiegel magazine identified Kaestner as Germany's last World War I veteran, but verification of the claim was difficult as the country keeps no record of its war veterans. In a country where the shame of the Nazi genocide and memories of two world war defeats still cast long shadows, both publications focused more on the German national psyche than the death itself. "The German public was within a hair's breadth of never learning of the end of an era," wrote Der Spiegel, until someone updated his death notice on the internet encyclopaedia site, Wikipedia. In its obituary for Kaestner, Die Welt noted: "The losers hide themselves in a state of self-pity and self denial that they happily try to mitigate by forgetting."
Officer, judge, husband
Born in 1900, Kaestner had joined the army when he left school in 1918.
He rejoined the military as a Luftwaffe first lieutenant in 1939, where he served mainly as a ground support officer in France.
After the war, he became a judge in Hanover, where his work earned him Lower Saxony's Merit Cross.
His 75-year marriage was recognised by Germany's president in 2003 shortly before his wife, Maria, died aged 102.

[, Saturday, 26 January 2008]

Henry Allingham
LONDON — The world's oldest man, 113-year-old World War I veteran Henry Allingham, died Saturday after spending his final years reminding Britain about the 9 million soldiers killed during the conflict. Allingham was the last surviving original member of the Royal Air Force, which was formed in 1918. He made it a personal crusade to talk about a conflict that wiped out much of a generation. Though nearly blind, he would take the outstretched hands of visitors in both of his, gaze into the eyes of children, veterans and journalists and deliver a message he wanted them all to remember.
"I want everyone to know," he told The Associated Press during an interview in November. "They died for us."
Only a handful of World War I veterans remain of the estimated 68 million mobilized. There are no French veterans left alive; the last living American-born veteran is Frank Woodruff Buckles of Charles Town, West Virginia.

"It's the end of a era — a very special and unique generation," said Allingham's longtime friend, Dennis Goodwin, who confirmed Allingham's death. "The British people owe them a great deal of gratitude."

Henry Allingham in 2007
(picture courtesy of wikipedia)

Born June 6, 1896, Allingham left school at 15 and was working in a car factory in east London when war broke out in 1914. He spent the war's first months refitting trucks for military use, but when his mother died in June 1915, he decided to join up after seeing a plane circling a reservoir in Essex, east of London.

"It was a captivating sight," he wrote in his memoir. "Fascinated, I sat down on the grass verge to watch the aircraft. I decided that was for me."
Only a dozen years after the Wright brothers first put up their plane, Allingham and other airmen set out from eastern England on motorized kites made with wood, linen and wire. They piled on clothes and smeared their faces in Vaseline, whale oil or engine grease to block the cold.

"To be honest, all the planes were so flimsy and unpredictable — as well as incapable of carrying large fuel loads — at the start of the war that both British and German pilots would immediately turn back rather than face each other in the skies if they did not enjoy height supremacy," Allingham would later write." "But I remember getting back on the ground and just itching to take off again."
As a mechanic, Allingham's job was to maintain the rickety craft. He also flew as an observer on a biplane. At first, his weaponry consisted of a standard issue Lee Enfield .303 rifle — sometimes two. Parachutes weren't issued. He fought in the Battle of Jutland, the largest naval battle of World War I. He served on the Western Front, by now armed with a machine gun. He was wounded in the arm by shrapnel during an attack on an aircraft depot, but survived.
After the war he worked at the Ford motor factory and raised two children with his wife, Dorothy. She died in 1970, and when his daughter Jean died in 2001, friends say he waited to die, too.
That's when he met Goodwin, a lay inspector for nursing homes, who realized that veterans of Allingham's generation were not getting the care they needed to address the trauma they had experienced at the Somme, Gallipoli and Ypres. Some veterans ached to return to the battle fields to pay their respects to their slain friends, and Goodwin found himself organizing trips to France. He encouraged Allingham to share his experiences and the veteran soon began talking to reporters and school groups, the connection to a lost generation. He found himself leading military parades. He was made an Officer of France's Legion of Honor.
He met Queen Elizabeth II and wrote his autobiography with Goodwin, "Kitchener's Last Volunteer," a reference to Britain's Minister for War who rallied men to the cause. Prince Charles wrote the introduction.
He grew accustomed to being one of the last ones standing. Last year, he joined Harry Patch, Britain's last soldier, and the late Bill Stone, its last sailor, in a ceremony at the Cenotaph war memorial near the houses of Parliament in London, to mark the 90th anniversary of the war's end. As the wreaths were being laid, Allingham pushed himself up out of his wheelchair to place his arrangement at the base of the memorial.
Allingham remained outspoken until his death, pleading for peace and begging anyone who would listen to remember those who died.

"I think we need to make people aware that a few men gave all they had to give so that you could have a better world to live in," he said. "We have to pray it never happens again."

Goodwin says Allingham's funeral will take place in Brighton. He is survived by five grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren, 14 great-great grandchildren and one great-great-great grandchild.


Harry Patch
died July 25, 2009
LONDON — Harry Patch, the last British army veteran of World War I, has died at 111, the nursing home where he lived said Saturday. The Fletcher House care home in Wells, southwest England, said Patch died early Saturday.
"He just quietly slipped away at 9 a.m. this morning," said care home manager Andrew Larpent. "It was how he would have wanted it, without having to be moved to hospitals but here, peacefully with his friends and carers."
Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the whole country would mourn "the passing of a great man."
"The noblest of all the generations has left us, but they will never be forgotten. We say today with still greater force, We Will Remember Them," Brown said.
Prince Charles said "nothing could give me greater pride" than paying tribute to Patch.

Patch had been the last surviving soldier from the British army to have served in the 1914-18 war. The only other surviving U.K.-based British veteran of the war, former airman Henry Allingham, died a week ago at age 113.
The Ministry of Defense called Patch "the last British survivor of the First World War," although 108-year-old Claude Choules of Australia is believed to have served in the Royal Navy during the conflict.

Born in southwest England in 1898, Patch was called up for military service in 1916 when he was working as a teenage apprentice plumber. After training he was sent to the trenches as a machine-gunner in the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry. A few weeks later, in one of the bloodiest battles of the war, at Passchendaele near the Belgian town of Ypres, he was badly wounded and three of his best friends were killed by a shell explosion.

Patch's death Saturday severs Britain's living links with "the war to end all wars," which killed about 20 million people. In recent years he and his dwindling band of fellow survivors became poignant symbols of the conflict.
Last year he, Allingham and British naval veteran Bill Stone attended remembrance ceremonies in London to mark the 90th anniversary of the war's end at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. The three frail men in wheelchairs laid wreaths of red poppies at the base of the stone memorial.

Stone died in January.
At a remembrance ceremony in 2007, Patch said he felt "humbled that I should be representing an entire generation."
"Today is not for me. It is for the countless millions who did not come home with their lives intact. They are the heroes," he said. "It is also important we remember those who lost their lives on both sides."
Patch said he did not speak about the war for 80 years. But he came to believe the casualties were not justified.
"I met someone from the German side and we both shared the same opinion: we fought, we finished and we were friends," he said in 2007. "It wasn't worth it."

WW1 Veteran John Babock, in 2008
[Jeff Green/Reuters]

John Babcock, who joined the Canadian Army at 15 and ultimately became the symbol of an embattled generation as Canada’s last known veteran of World War I, died Thursday (February 18, 2010) at his home in Spokane, Wash. He was 109.

His death was announced by the Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, who called him “the last living link” to a war “which in so many ways marked our coming of age as a nation.”

More than 600,000 Canadians served in World War I, and the Canadians’ capture of the Germans’ Vimy Ridge outpost in France in April 1917 is considered a milestone in forging Canada’s national identity.

Mr. Babcock never made it to France. When he arrived in Britain in 1917, the military authorities discovered that he was 16 years old, not 18 as he claimed, and he was relegated to mundane chores. But in the final years of his life he was celebrated by his countrymen for representing what Mr. Harper called “the generation that asserted our independence on the world stage.”

John Henry Foster Babcock was born July 23, 1900, on a farm near Kingston, Ontario. When he was 6, his father died after a tree fell on him. His family split apart, he was shuttled among relatives’ homes, and he had few opportunities for an education. He was barely in his teens, and only 5 feet 4 and 115 pounds, when the inspiration from the poem by Tennyson, of combat in the Crimean War, in the 1850s, changed his life.

“A sergeant and officer came through and they told us about ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade,’ and they asked me if I would like to sign up,” The Ottawa Sun quoted Mr. Babcock as recalling. “It was the thing to do, and I didn’t know any better. And I got $1.10 a day because they were hard up for men.”

Mr. Babcock moved to the United States after the war, served in the American Army, settled in Spokane and owned a plumbing and heating company. He was a citizen of both the United States and Canada.

His death leaves Frank Buckles, 109, of Charles Town, W.Va., as the last surviving American citizen to have served in an Allied military force during World War I. Mr. Buckles drove a United States Army ambulance in France.

Mr. Babcock is survived by his wife, Dorothy; his son, Jack, and his daughter, Sandra Strong, from his marriage to his first wife, Elsie, who died in 1976; his stepsons, Eric and Marc Farden; 16 grandchildren; and 9 great-grandchildren.

In November 2006, when only three Canadian veterans of World War I were still alive, the House of Commons voted in favor of a state funeral for the last survivor. Dorothy Babcock said in an interview on Monday that her husband had not wanted such a tribute because he had not been in combat, and that a family memorial service would be held instead. He was nonetheless awed, she said, that “he stood in the place of all the men who served in the Great War.”
Published: February 24, 2010, The New York Times

Frank W. Buckles
Last US veteran of WWI dies in W. Va. at age 110
[died February 27, 2011]
AP – By VICKI SMITH, Associated Press Vicki Smith, Associated Press, 28 Feb 2011

Frank Woodruff Buckles Enlistment photo

August 1917 Enlistment Photo

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Frank Buckles enlisted for World War I at 16 after lying about his age. He made it home again and ultimately became that war's last surviving U.S. veteran, campaigning for greater recognition for his comrades-in-arms before dying at 110.
Buckles, who also survived being a civilian POW in the Philippines in World War II, died of natural causes Sunday at his home in Charles Town, biographer and family spokesman David DeJonge said. He was 110.
Buckles had been advocating for a national memorial honoring veterans of the Great War in the nation's capital and asked about its progress weekly, sometimes daily.
"He was sad it's not completed," DeJonge said Monday. "It's a simple straightforward thing to do, to honor Americans."
When asked in February 2008 how it felt to be the last of his kind, he said simply, "I realized that somebody had to be, and it was me." And he told The Associated Press he would have done it all over again, "without a doubt."

Frank W. Buckles
Frank Woodruff Buckles

On Nov. 11, 2008, the 90th anniversary of the end of the war, Buckles attended a ceremony at the grave of World War I Gen. John Pershing in Arlington National Cemetery.
He was back in Washington a year later to endorse a proposal to rededicate the existing World War I memorial on the National Mall as the official National World War I Memorial. He told a Senate panel it was "an excellent idea." The memorial was originally built to honor District of Columbia's war dead.
Born in Missouri in 1901 and raised in Oklahoma, Buckles visited a string of military recruiters after the United States entered the "war to end all wars" in April 1917. He was repeatedly rejected before convincing an Army captain he was 18. He was actually 16½ .
"A boy of (that age), he's not afraid of anything. He wants to get in there," Buckles said.

Details for services and arrangements will be announced later this week, but DeJonge said Buckles' daughter, Susannah Flanagan, is planning for burial in Arlington National Cemetery. In 2008, friends persuaded the federal government to make an exception to its rules and allow his burial there.
Buckles had already been eligible to have his cremated remains housed at the cemetery. To be buried underground, however, he would have had to meet several criteria, including earning one of five medals, such as a Purple Heart.
Buckles never saw combat but joked, "Didn't I make every effort?"
"We have lost a living link to an important era in our nation's history," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki. "But we have also lost a man of quiet dignity, who dedicated his final years to ensuring the sacrifices of his fellow 'Doughboys' are appropriately commemorated."

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller called Buckles "a wonderfully plainspoken man and an icon for the World War I generation" and said he will continue fighting for the memorial Buckles wanted.

"He lived a long and rich life as a true American patriot," said U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, "and I hope that his family's loss is lightened with the knowledge that he was loved and will be missed by so many."

The family asked that donations be made to the National World War One Legacy Project. The project is managed by the nonprofit Survivor Quest and will educate students about Buckles and WWI through a documentary and traveling educational exhibition.

More than 4.7 million people joined the U.S. military from 1917-18. As of spring 2007, only three were still alive, according to a tally by the Department of Veterans Affairs: Buckles, J. Russell Coffey of Ohio and Harry Richard Landis of Florida.

The dwindling roster prompted a flurry of public interest, and Buckles went to Washington in May 2007 to serve as grand marshal of the national Memorial Day parade.

Coffey died Dec. 20, 2007, at age 109, while Landis died Feb. 4, 2008, at 108. Unlike Buckles, those two men were still in basic training in the United States when the war ended and did not make it overseas.
The last known Canadian veteran of the war, John Babcock of Spokane, Wash., died in February 2010.
There are no French or German veterans of the war left alive.

Buckles served in England and France, working mainly as a driver and a warehouse clerk. An eager student of culture and language, he used his off-duty hours to learn German, visit cathedrals, museums and tombs, and bicycle in the French countryside. After Armistice Day, Buckles helped return prisoners of war to Germany. He returned to the United States in January 1920. Buckles returned to Oklahoma for a while, then moved to Canada, where he worked a series of jobs before heading for New York City. There, he again took advantage of free museums, worked out at the YMCA, and landed jobs in banking and advertising. But it was the shipping industry that suited him best, and he worked around the world for the White Star Line Steamship Co. and W.R. Grace & Co. In 1941, while on business in the Philippines, Buckles was captured by the Japanese. He spent more than three years in prison camps.

"I was never actually looking for adventure," Buckles once said. "It just came to me."

He married in 1946 and moved to his farm in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle in 1954, where he and wife Audrey raised their daughter. Audrey Buckles died in 1999. In spring 2007, Buckles told the AP of the trouble he went through to get into the military.

"I went to the state fair up in Wichita, Kansas, and while there, went to the recruiting station for the Marine Corps," he said. "The nice Marine sergeant said I was too young when I gave my age as 18, said I had to be 21."
Buckles returned a week later.
"I went back to the recruiting sergeant, and this time I was 21," he said with a grin. "I passed the inspection ... but he told me I just wasn't heavy enough."
Then he tried the Navy, whose recruiter told Buckles he was flat-footed.
Buckles wouldn't quit. In Oklahoma City, an Army captain demanded a birth certificate.

"I told him birth certificates were not made in Missouri when I was born, that the record was in a family Bible. I said, 'You don't want me to bring the family Bible down, do you?'" Buckles said with a laugh. "He said, 'OK, we'll take you.'"

He enlisted Aug. 14, 1917, serial number 15577


Florence Patterson Green
Jan 2010

Florence Green

The revels were not quite as wild as on Armistice Day. Still, there was plenty to celebrate yesterday when the world's last surviving female veteran of the First World War celebrated her 110th birthday.

Florence Green, from King's Lynn, Norfolk, was 17 years old when she joined the Women's Royal Air Force, in the late summer of 1918. Come the 11th day of the 11th month, she was working as a waitress at RAF Marham, when the pilots greeted news of the German surrender by clambering into their planes and bombing nearby RAF Narborough airfield with bags of flour. Narborough, not to be outdone, retaliated with their own daring raid, this time dropping bags of soot.

Yesterday the Air Force marked Mrs Green's birthday with the delivery of a rather more traditional nature: a cake. At 110, Mrs Green joins a highly exclusive club of "supercentenarians" – only around one in 1,000 of those with a letter from the Queen on the mantelpiece push on to this next landmark.

When asked what it's like to be 110, Mrs Green, who lives with her daughter May, quite the spring chicken at just 89, was rather philosophical: "It's not much different to being 109," she said, which seems plausible, though of course very few get to find out. Of the flying flour and soot war of Norfolk, 1918, she said simply: "It seems like such a long time ago now." To put it into context, she married her husband Walter, a railway porter, in 1920, and they had three children together. He died 50 years later, and that was 41 years ago.

Mrs Green was only identified as a surviving war veteran in 2008, when a researcher of gerontology found her service record, listed under her maiden name, Patterson, at the National Archives. Though she never saw the front line, her service in the WRAF qualifies her for veteran status. She is now one of just two surviving Britons from the conflict. The other, Claude Stanley Choules, served in the Royal Navy and now lives in Australia. His own 110th birthday is on 3 March.

The WRAF in which Mrs Green served was founded only months before she joined up. Its original intent was to provide female mechanics in order to free up men for service. But the organisation saw huge enrolment, with women volunteering for positions as drivers and mechanics and filling other wartime needs.

"Because the war was a manpower-intensive beast and lots of the young men ended up in France or Egypt fighting the dastardly Hun, as they were called at the time, there was a shortage of manpower, so the powers that be turned to woman power," said Sebastian Cox, head of the air historical branch of the RAF. "Women working was a much less common thing in 1918; they were only a very small percentage of the working population. But once you had conscription from 1916, unless the men were in a reserved occupation, such as down the mines or building aircraft or in the steel works, they were liable to be conscripted. So women took over the other jobs. The RAF needed women for tasks that would normally have been done by men, including waitressing in the officers' mess: before the war that would have been a bloke."

The demographic difficulties were not, for Mrs Green at least, without their upside: "I met dozens of pilots and would go on dates," she said in an interview in 2008. "I had the opportunity to go up in one of the planes but I was scared of flying. I would work every hour God sent. But I had dozens of friends on the base and we had a great deal of fun in our spare time. In many ways, I had the time of my life.'

History certainly records RAF Marham as a busy place to have served, as the battle in the skies grew in significance as the war progressed. FE2bs, RE7s, BE2s – wooden aircraft with engines less powerful than those on most modern motorbikes – set off for bombing raids throughout the day. Today it is the base for four squadrons of Tornadoes, ground-attack aircraft that have served in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. The pilots of these supersonic jets have rather different concerns than their First World War counterparts.

"These First World War airplanes only had engines of 70 to 150 horsepower," Mr Cox said. "They were pretty flimsy affairs. They were subject to the vagaries of the weather much more than modern aircraft. You wouldn't take off if the wind was too strong, for example."

Other than Mrs Green and Mr Choules, only one veteran of that great conflict is still alive: an American ambulance driver named Frank Buckles, who turned 110 earlier this month
(note: Mr. Buckles died 27 Feb 2011). When inevitably he passes on, he will be eligible for burial in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington DC. There, each year, on Remembrance Sunday are read the lines of the English poet Laurence Binyon: "They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old."

In the meantime, it is nice to remember the few like Mrs Green who have grown old, not with poppies and sombre ceremonies, but a slice of birthday cake.
"The Independent", 20 Feb 2011



Genealogy Trails
©Genealogy Trails