Claude Stanley Choules, the last known combat veteran of World War I, died Thursday at a nursing home in the Western Australia city of Perth, his family said. He was 110.
Beloved for his wry sense of humor and humble nature, Choules — nicknamed "Chuckles" by his comrades in the Royal Australian Navy — usually told the curious that the secret to a long life was simply to "keep breathing."
Choules was born March 3, 1901, in the small British town of Pershore, Worcestershire. He lied about his age so he could join the British Royal Navy in 1916, two years after the Great War began. Sailors were required to be at least 18 when they signed up.
In 1917, he joined the battleship Revenge and a year later witnessed the surrender of the German Imperial Navy.
Choules became the last male World War I veteran when American Frank Buckles died at 110 in February. Florence Green of Britain is now thought to be the only survivor who served in the Great War. Green, who turned 110 in February, was a waitress in the Women's Royal Air Force.
Choules later joined the Royal Australian Navy and settled permanently Down Under.
During World War II, he was a torpedo officer and was assigned to blow up the Navy's ships in Fremantle Harbor, Western Australia, had Japanese forces invaded. He retired in 1956 after serving with the Naval Dockyard Police.
In his 80s, Choules 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, which was published in 2009.
His wife, Ethel, whom he met on the way to Australia in 1926, died in 2006 at 98.
Choules is survived by a son, Adrian; two daughters, Anne Pow and Daphne Edinger; and at least 13 grandchildren, 26 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren, according to Australian reports.
Despite the fame he achieved because of his military service, Choules grew to become a pacifist who was uncomfortable with anything that glorified war. He disagreed with the celebration of Anzac Day, Australia's most important war memorial holiday, and refused to march in parades commemorating the holiday.
"He didn't believe in war," his daughter Daphne said.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times