Choules died Thursday at a nursing home in the Western Australia city of Perth. His life included a 41-year military career that spanned the two world wars. He was also the last living veteran to have served in both WWI and WWII, and was also the last seaman living from the World War I. He and Florence Green, became World War I's last known surviving service members after the death of American Frank Buckles in February of this year. Green, however, was a non-combatant, service as a waitress in the Women's Royal Air Force.
Choules was born on March 3, 1901, in the small British town of Pershore, Worcestershire, and was one of seven children. He was the son of Harry and Madeline (nee Winn). According to AP, he was told his mother had died, but instead she left when he was 5 to pursue an acting career.
Choules joined the Nautical Training Ship Mercury at the age of 14, then transferred to the Royal Navy in October of 1916. He initially served aboard the Naval Training Ship HMS Circe, situated at Plymouth. In 1917, he joined the battleship HMS Revenge, the flagship of the First Battle Squadron. While on the Revenge, , ten days after the Armistice, he watched the 1918 surrender of the German High Seas Fleet, which was the main battle fleet of the German Navy during World War I.
In his autobiography, "The Last of the Last," which was published in 2009, Choules remembered the surrender. He wrote, "There was no sign of fight left in the Germans as they came out of the mist at about 10 a.m. So ended the most momentous day in the annals of naval warfare. A fleet of ships surrendered without firing a shot."
He later joined the Royal Australian Navy and settled permanently in Australia. During World War II, he was chief demolition officer for the western portion of the Australian continent, as well as the acting torpedo officer in Fremantle, Western Australia.
Choules met his wife Ethel (nee Wildgoose) in 1926. He met her on the first day of a six-week boat trip from England to Australia, where he had been sent to serve as a naval instructor at Flinders Naval Depot. Ten months later, they married. The couple spent their next 76 years together, until she died in 2003 at the age of 98. He had 3 children (Daphne, Anne and Adrian), 11 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren.
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