View Full Version : The Last Tommy

6th Nov 2005, 20:46
Fellow Prunners, this thread has been running on the 'other means' and I think is worthy of our support as well, particularly at this time of year:

The Last Tommy (http://www.arrse.co.uk/cpgn2/index.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=25439#439522)

We should not let these brave men go without a last hurrah to show that we have not forgotten


Red Line Entry
6th Nov 2005, 21:39
An excellent suggestion on ARRSE, that the last WWI serviceman should receive a state funeral. Wouldn't it be a refreshing change if our politicians did something right for once?

6th Nov 2005, 21:56
Re WW1 survivors, today's (6th Nov) News of World, is running article claiming 9 current UK survivors;

Sorry no link available

RE State Funeral, yes subject to family wishes

PZU- Out of Africa

6th Nov 2005, 22:20
I've not seen the NoW - does it include William Stone, who is an RN vereran? Last year aged 103 he walked unaided to The Cenotaph to place a wreath marking the 90th anniversary of the start of WW1, and he went to Dunkirk 5 times during the evacuation.

At the rate he is going I think he'll outlive me ...:ok:

Focks 2
7th Nov 2005, 00:03
Theres also an article in the Sunday Telegraph magazine about them. Theres a profile/photograph of each one. Two of them are 109! I'll hang on to it if anyone wants it.

7th Nov 2005, 00:20
email sent to my MP, please try to do the same, it only takes a few seconds.

Focks - I'd like to see a copy.

7th Nov 2005, 02:12
Old soldiers never die they simply fade away... :sad:

We had one who disappeared in Flanders. Gran hung onto the hope that it was her brother under that slab in Westminster Abbey. I still remember, but when I too am gone, there'll be no-one left who does and Great Uncle William will have finally faded...

7th Nov 2005, 08:34
Two of these old boys have a strong connection with you blokes on the military forum of PPRuNe, as they were aircraft groundcrew. One from the RNAS, one from the RFC:

The Guardian website printed extracts of interviews with both:

"Henry Allingham
109 (born June 6 1896)
Air mechanic, Royal Naval Air Service

I wanted to go straight into the service, but my mother was on her own and she didn't want that. So I carried on working for a while. Then, in September 1915, my mother died aged just 42. As soon as I lost her, I joined up.

I went to the RAC in Pall Mall. I had a Triumph TT motorbike at the time and they were looking for dispatch riders for the Royal Engineers. When I told them about my bike, they said they would accept it and that all I had to do was pass the medical. I went along with two others, and they put my name down. I waited. Monday came and still no call and I didn't like that. I wanted them to send for me quickly. I was impatient. Then, one day, I went out for a ride on my pushbike, and I saw an aeroplane and I thought, "That's for me!"

When we were flying off the ships, we couldn't stay airborne for long because we would run out of fuel - that was the trouble. People sometimes had to ditch their aircraft. I saw about seven ditchings. Sometimes the plane would be going up steeply, then it would stop and start going back and it would have no speed - no power. The wind was stronger than the power it had to go forward. In about 12 months they were able to overcome that with a lot more power.

We never ditched - fortunately - because if you ditched, you were in big trouble. We never had any parachutes and we didn't have radio. We had pigeons which we carried in a basket, but I never had to use them. Some of our people who were adrift in the drink could be there for up to five days, and they used to let the pigeons go. They would fly back to the loft at the station, and a search party would be sent out to look for them. As a general rule, after five days of searching, they would give up, and the men were lost. However, I met a fellow once who was on leave from the Halcyon; he was sitting beside me one afternoon by the river Dee, and he said how he had been lucky. He had ditched and they were about to give up looking for him when somebody thought they saw something - and sure enough, it was him. He was very lucky.

In those days, you had an open cockpit and it was very cold. You had a leather jacket and a leather helmet, and you'd put Vaseline on your face, and you had gloves to protect you from frostbite. The standard issue was long johns and you had a thick shirt and a vest. Over the top of that you had a grey shirt and a tunic. Your working gear was a tunic with patch pockets, which was very useful and practical.

Then you had a choice: you could have trews or you could wear britches and puttees [strips of cloth wound around the leg to form leggings], which took a while to put on. With regard to equipment, you didn't have gun mountings in the aircraft until about June of 1916. That was when we first got the Lewis gun. Once Lewis guns were mounted on our planes, we had the problem of trying to shoot through the propeller. In the air, if you tried it, you'd just shoot the prop away. Then they developed the synchromesh gear with the engine, which synchronised the firing of the machine gun through the prop. But when I first got in the cockpit, it was my job to sit behind the pilot and defend the plane with a pair of Lee Enfield rifles.

In September 1917, we were sent to France to support the Royal Flying Corps. I joined No 12 Squadron RNAS at Petit Synthe, near Dunkirk. The squadron had been formed in June 1917 and was equipped with a mixture of Sopwith Pups, Triplanes and Camels.

The first thing I did when I got to Calais was have a nice plate of egg and chips. My job was to service aircraft and to rescue aircraft parts from any machine that crashed behind the lines of trenches.

As mechanics, we had to keep the aircraft flying using anything we could. The pilots liked to take their mechanics up in the plane with them, because that way they knew the mechanics would service the plane properly. I used to sit behind the pilot and drop out bombs. If the enemy appeared, I used to open fire with the Lewis gun.

Once when we were moving forward on the Ypres Salient to support the offensive, we got to this particular place just as it got dark. It was a strange place and we hadn't been cleared to go forward by the Canadian engineers. There was a lot of fighting in the area and you couldn't walk about as it was too dangerous. It was safest to stay put, so I stuck where I was. I put my groundsheet and blanket down on a bit of concrete and I went to sleep. You didn't have a pillow. You put your boots together and you'd sleep with your head on them.

I got up in the night, took a couple of paces and fell straight into a shell hole. It was absolutely stinking. There was everything in there, you name it - dead rats, no end of rats. You know what they fed on in this hole? The bodies of the boys listed as missing.

So there I was, in this filthy great big hole. I decided to take a chance and I moved to the left. If I'd gone to the right, I don't know what would have happened. It was shallow and I managed to get to my feet, and I tried to climb out. I tried several times, but no joy. Somehow, though, and I don't know how, I heaved my belly up on to the side, and I could just pull myself out. I was soaking wet, right up to my armpits, but I had to stay where I was until daylight. I didn't dare move again. I wore that kit until it dried off on my body.

We all got lice in our clothes. We used to run the seam of the shirt over a candle flame to get rid of them. Of course, you'd wash your shirt if you could - and when you did wash it, you'd hang it on a bit of line. Next thing you'd see was the lice crawling along the line.

Thinking back to the first war, I don't think I knew what to expect. I thought we'd win - but I never thought we'd have to fight again like that for 100 years. I'll never forget my comrades, but you can't dwell on the terrible things that happened. You couldn't go on if you did. But on days like Armistice Day, I pray for them. At the Cenotaph in 2004, I was thinking of the blokes I knew who burned. I saw them come down - men I knew, whose planes I knew - crashing into the ground.

There's good stuff to remember: the camaraderie and knowing you can depend on your mate, but not the other things. I used not to think about it at all, but now people want to talk to me about it because I'm one of the few left. So now I have to think more about it.

But there are things I would rather not think about. In fact, it often feels like something that happened to someone else.

William Roberts
105 (born Sep 29 1900)
Corporal, Royal Flying Corps

My dad was in the Royal Engineers. He joined in August 1914. I remember his number was 43968. One day in 1915 I went with my mother, who originally came from the Dudley area, to stay with her relations in Birmingham. While we were there, we got news that my dad was home at a barracks just outside London, and we could see him there. He had his week's leave with us, and then it was "cheerio" and that was it. I never saw him again. He was due home from the trenches in December 1915, but he never came. A German sniper got him.

After that, I wanted to join up. I wanted to join the Durham Light Infantry, but they wouldn't entertain having me. I was too young - 16, I think. Eventually, when I was 17, I joined the Royal Flying Corps. I thought I was a big man but I got a shock.

I was sent to Laffans Plain at Farnborough, where they had no accommodation indoors so we were all under canvas, near the aircraft repair factory. My job was to maintain the aircraft engines. My number was 81853. Not bad for my age, to remember that, eh?

They used to take the planes out, fly them and test them. Rather than go to the bother of putting ballast in, they'd take a passenger up with them: usually one of us youngsters who wanted to fly. One beautiful sunny day, it was my turn. The aerodrome was a blaze of blue sky and green grass. We were in an old Maurice Farman pusher machine with the engine at the back. A great big thing; I'd never been in one before. I listened to the engine and we started to move.

I looked up at the beautiful blue sky, when suddenly, there was this loud zoom and I was hanging upside down, staring at the ground. I undid my safety belt and fell flat on my head. The plane had gone completely over. The pilot was a Belgian officer. He got me by the shoulder and he said, "Run away, because it'll go up in flames - and if the fuel goes over you, it's worse." And I did run. An hour later, that same pilot took up another plane, which crashed and killed him.

I look back nowadays, and I think of the great war as a lot of political bull. There shouldn't be wars. That war was a lot of bloody political bull."

Both of my grandfathers fought on the Western Front (one with the Royal Engineers and then the RFC, the other with the Machine Gun Corps). I remember the stories one of them told, 60 years later, but never met the other, alas.

7th Nov 2005, 09:13
Thanks Jacko. William Roberts story is similar to my grandfather who transfered from the infantry to the RFC as a fitter/mechanic. After a second period of convalescing, this time after the Somme, he took an opportunity to swap the trenches for work on RE8s and enjoyed a number of ‘test’ flights. More to the point, he survived and, although he died in the late 60s, he and his colleagues left a rich legacy. I am deeply proud of him.

7th Nov 2005, 10:18
Whilst I totally agree that we should never forget the sacrifice these young men gave, I'm not convinced a state funeral would be the answer. It would certainly have to be with the full approval of the family. I'm not sure that I'd want a state funeral for my grandad. They may just want a quiet family affair.

7th Nov 2005, 11:31
I think it's a great idea, as long as the veteran's family and the Queen agree to it. A letter has duly been sent to my MP.

7th Nov 2005, 16:18
One can study warfare for ever and learn little, but it is comments like this one from Cpl Roberts that show war for what it really is:

'I look back nowadays, and I think of the great war as a lot of political bull. There shouldn't be wars. That war was a lot of bloody political bull.'

I don't think that even Churchill ever said it better.

8th Nov 2005, 09:39
I don't know if this Remembrance Day video from Canada (6.5MB) circa 2003 has featured here before but it has a good, albeit slightly mawkish, message:


8th Nov 2005, 22:43
Well that was one of the most humbling TV programmes I've seen.........

Amused at the tale of the last surviving RFC veteran, when he decided to swig some engine oil as a laxative.....:ugh:

C130 Techie
9th Nov 2005, 11:03
An excellent programme. Can't wait for the concluding part.

In this day and age it seems imossible to imagine the conditions these guys endured and the dangers they faced.

The clarity of their memories so many years on is astonishing

9th Nov 2005, 11:37
when he decided to swig some engine oil as a laxative..... .... not as stupid an idea as you might think, but he wouldn't have needed to drink it.

High performance oils then (and until quite recently) were very probably vegetable rather than mineral, and almost certainly castor-oil based (if you're old enough, remember the smell of Castrol "R"!)

In fact, that's where "Castrol" got its name from.

There is anecdotal evidence that pilots could find the fumes alone to have a laxative effect inn the cockpit.... but maybe meeting a staffel of Fokkers would do that!!

9th Nov 2005, 12:00
.... not as stupid an idea as you might think, but he wouldn't have needed to drink it.

He did drink it....:O

High performance oils then (and until quite recently) were very probably vegetable rather than mineral, and almost certainly castor-oil based (if you're old enough, remember the smell of Castrol "R"!)

He did explain this to the interviewer. I used to run Castrol R in my BSA just for that smell.......:p

13th Nov 2005, 15:29
Come on guys. There's a distinct lack of "an excellent idea, I've written to..." posts here. :(

Get writing

Letters to: Prince Charles, PM, Sec of State for Defence, Armed Forces Minister, Micheal Howard, Shadow Sec Def and email to RBL are on their way from me. :)

13th Nov 2005, 21:27
Yes I've written to my MP (William Hague) and had a positive response;

Re Henry Allingham, was in London today (Remembrance Sunday) for a meeting, and on entering hotel lobby there he was just leaving after lunch - looked remarkably fit;

Spoke briefly with a member of his party, who in effect offered to introduce me - didn't take him up on his offer, still not sure if I did the right thing or not;

PZU - Out of Africa

15th Nov 2005, 23:00
And a very poignant last 5 mins of the series - when you realise those brave guys are largely no longer with us.

A well filmed programme by the BBC - just wondered why it wasn't aired a few weeks earlier.... might have got a few more peole digging into their pockets.

16th Nov 2005, 00:23
For once, I believe that the Beeb deserves some credit.

Filmed two years ago, no-one expected that the film's 'conclusion' (that one of the old boys featured was the last to visit the Western Front) would turn out to be wrong. I understand that when it became clear that plans were afoot for another visit by a WWI veteran to France on Armistice Day itself it was felt that coverage of that event should not be pre-dated by this documentary. There was, in other words, a desire not to steal Henry Allingham's richly deserved thunder as he (and another of the veterans) went across this year.

At 109!

And he was a former member of the Royal Air Force.

16th Nov 2005, 06:52
I think its a great idea but cannot see it happening far to politically incorrect in this day and age

Tracey Island
16th Nov 2005, 08:34
Jackonicko, hate to correct you.... but Naval Airman Allingham was one of ours!

CV reads:

Henry Allingham was born on 6 June 1896 in Clapham, London.

He joined the RNAS in 1915, training initially at Chingford. His first posting was to Great Yarmouth, as an Air Mechanic First Class, where he often flew. In early May 1916 he was ordered to join the destroyer HMS Kingfisher, equipped with a seaplane, that accompanied the fleet during the Battle of Jutland.

In 1917 he was posted to the Western Front to join No 9 Squadron (RNAS) – later No 209 Squadron (RAF) – equipped with the Sopwith Camel. Henry continued to serve in France and Belgium until the Armistice.

He was discharged in 1919 and joined Fords where he worked until retirement. Henry married Dorothy shortly after leaving the RAF. Their marriage lasted 53 years and produced two daughters. He now has 5 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren - all living in America.

Henry Allingham St Omer Memorial September 2004:

Henry Allingham, a 108-year old veteran of the Royal Naval Air Service, returned to France for the first time since his service there as a mechanic during the Great War to lay a wreath at the memorial, which was unveiled by Air Chief Marshal Sir Brian Burridge and Lieutenant General Jean Patrick Gaviard of the Armee de l'Air. Mr Allingham served as a Royal Naval Air Service mechanic and flew patrols in the North Sea as a navigator and is the last survivor of the Battle of Jutland in which the British Grand Fleet established dominance of the North Sea despite losing more ships on the day. He was then based at the British Air Services Aerodrome at St Omer in Northern France where he repaired aircraft and engines at the battles of the Somme and Ypres. The British airfield at St Omer was established ninety years ago in October 1914 and it quickly developed into the most important British air base during the fighting in France and Belgium in WW1. As the concept of Air Power was born and its benefits realised, the initially small British air services rapidly grew into the Royal Naval Air Service, Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force. More than fifty squadrons were based at some point at St Omer which was both an operational station and a major maintenance depot with over 4,000 personnel based there in 1918. The struggle for air superiority over the Lines came at a high cost with the British airmen maintaining a relentless offensive despite suffering periods of technical and tactical inferiority to the Germans, most notoriously "Bloody April" in 1917; over 8,000 airmen fell as casualties.
Representing the Royal Navy and Fleet Air Arm at the ceremony was Commodore Steve Jermy, Assistant Chief of Staff (Aviation) and Commodore Fleet Air Arm who laid a wreath and led the standing ovation when Henry Allingham laid his.
Speaking to the BBC at last year's ceremony at the Cenotaph Mr Allingham said he thought joining the war effort would be "an adventure". At that time aviation was still in its infancy and men such as Henry Allingham were pioneers: "It was the first time I went near a plane," he said, pointing out that the first powered flight in the world had only taken place a handful of years earlier. He remembers the plane he flew in the war's opening months, "my baby" as he called it, with a degree of disbelief. "They didn't have much speed with them. Sometimes they'd be coming along and the force of the wind would have you standing still. Sometimes you'd be flying backwards," he said. "You'd have to have good weather to fly.”There were two rifles in the cockpit that was all the armaments we had."

16th Nov 2005, 09:45
I have already written to the PM and to my MP. Positive response from MP; an automated response from PM's office.

Michael Howard, as an opportunist, will jump on any bandwagon passing...seems tasteless writing to him.


16th Nov 2005, 13:39
Allingham himself takes some pride in being the last surviving 'founder member' of the Royal Air Force, to which he transferred on April Fool's Day 1918, and with which he remained until his demob in 1919.

The RNAS ceased to exist on the former date.

Wasn't it 209 that claimed the scalp of the Red Baron? (Yeah, yeah, I know that the claim is dodgy, insofar as the 'fatal shot' came from ahead and below).

16th Nov 2005, 14:07
What are you writing to the PM, MP's for? Have I missed something?

Flatus Veteranus
16th Nov 2005, 16:24
My old Dad, who flew RE8s in WW1, remembered that the Camel squadron, with whom they shared an airfield at one stage, were mostly pi$$ed when they took off on long patrols. Their party line was that the castor oil used in their rotary engines left the exhaust in a fine mist which they inhaled. To combat the laxative effect (and the cold - lets not forget they often patrolled at 20,000 ft) they had a good swig at the Cognac before take-off. And who can blame them?

16th Nov 2005, 16:58
Whilst I would agree that all servicemen deserve the thanks and gratitude of the nation, Don't you think a state funeral is a bit over the top. Surely state funerals are for the Monarchy only, with very few and rare exceptions. Nelson, Wellington, Churchill are 3 I recall but don't think there are many more. Why does the last tommy to die deserve a state funeral? Why not the second to last tommy to die. What did the last tommy to die do that any other serviceman has done (apart from live a long time). Surely state funerals should be reserved for the Monarch and those very very special people who are being rewarded by the nation. If you were to conduct a quick straw poll around your office I'm sure that many people would not have heard of half of theose brave chaps who are left. You have to be careful here gents or it could turn into a joke. If the Govt were to announce that Mr Joe Bloggs had died and he was being awarded a state funeral, the general reaction would be ..."Who"?

N Arslow
16th Nov 2005, 17:18
VVHA, Are you not missing the point - it is not the individual that it is for, but for all those who died before him. Largely unsung and with the last to go, no doubt all too soon forgotten, this offers a very special (and dare I suggest very British) act of Remembrance for a generation that suffered in ways we are lucky enough only to have to imagine.

16th Nov 2005, 17:25
Well, if its not for the individual then why have a state funeral? Why not have a special day where we can remember ALL servicemen and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

No, I'm sorry. I'm a great fan and strong believer of acts of rememberance BUT a state funeral is not an act of rememberance.

As far as the "Very British" comment. I recently returned from Australia where they (in the ex servicemans club) hold a minutes silence EVERY day. Maybe we should encourage that sort of rememberance.

PPRuNe Radar
16th Nov 2005, 18:19
Are you not missing the point - it is not the individual that it is for, but for all those who died before him. Largely unsung and with the last to go, no doubt all too soon forgotten, this offers a very special (and dare I suggest very British) act of Remembrance for a generation that suffered in ways we are lucky enough only to have to imagine.

The presumption of course is that it is what the 'individual' concerned will want. If he is anything like most veterans I have met and chatted to, then he will not want to see himself as a hero or someone special and will argue that many of his fallen comrades are more worthy of the nations 'State' funeral. So who are we to demand that he should serve our own purposes ?? Let his family bury him in peace and with dignity attended by his own friends and colleagues, away from the glare of commercial and political sharks who only seek to feather their own nests and make capital out of such an event.

By all means have a national ceremony if that's what the public want, but not specifically for the 'last Tommy' nor involving him. Have it for the remembrance of all who have died in the service of this country.

C130 Techie
17th Nov 2005, 07:49
If you were to conduct a quick straw poll around your office I'm sure that many people would not have heard of half of theose brave chaps who are left. You have to be careful here gents or it could turn into a joke.

Quick straw poll conducted. Out of 9 colleagues all 9 knew what I was talking about and all 9 were in favour of a state funeral if it were in line with the families wishes.

17th Nov 2005, 08:07
Quick straw popll of my office -
Question " Would you support a state funeral for Henry Allingham?"

Result - out of 13 polled. 13 said "Who?"

I'm sure that most of you don't understand the pain and grief involved in a state funeral. If your Grandfather died would you really want to parade his coffin through the streets of London with horses drawing the gun carriage bolted, and ratings from the Royal Navy hauling the carriage to the Royal Chapel?

Televised live with press hounding your doorstep. Magazine articles, newspaper articles. Radio, TV all baying at your door for a snippet of gossip.

Or would you go for the quiet, family affair. Just a few close friends and relatives who would give the old chap a respectful and dignified send off.

17th Nov 2005, 09:32
The sticking point seems to be the focus on the individual and the manner of the service. I would love something fitting to be done but can also see sympathy for the school of though that the individual themselves would not normally warrant such a funeral.

I would suggest that when the time comes, a state funeral (or somethng appropriately grand) is held for the Unknown Soldier instead - there were many and they represent the collective sacrifice as much as the individual. Whether it is an empty coffin or one of the missing recovered probably doesn't really matter.

17th Nov 2005, 10:16
It might not have been classed as a state funeral for the Unknown soldier but it was still a pretty impressive affair

The HMS Verdun, escorted by six warships, transported the Unknown Soldier to Dover, where the coffin's arrival was greeted with a 19-gun salute. Six warrant officers from the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Royal Air Force and Royal Army then bore the coffin home to British soil to be taken by train to Victoria Station in London.

On the morning of November 11, six black horses drew the carriage that bore the Unknown Soldier through London's crowd-lined streets, pausing at The Mall, Whitehall, where the Cenotaph was unveiled by King George V. The King, his three sons, members of the Royal Family and Ministers of State then followed the coffin through the streets to the north entrance of Westminster Abbey.

At the west end of the Nave in Westminster Abbey the Unknown Soldier was laid to rest after passing through an honor guard that consisted of 100 recipients of the Victoria Cross (both British and Canadian). Following the hymn "Lead Kindly Light", King George V sprinkled soil from the battlefield at Ypres. (Six barrels of Ypres earth accompanied the Unknown Soldier home to England so that his coffin might lie on the soil where so many of his comrades had lost their lives.

For seven days the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of Great Britain lay under the watchful eye of a military guard while thousands of mourners passed by to leave their last respects. On November 18 a temporary stone sealed the grave, inscribed with the words:

"A British Warrior Who Fell in the Great War 1914-1918 for King and Country. Greater Love Hath No Man Than This."

20th Nov 2005, 12:36
It would appear that from the two replies that I've had so far(from HRH and the PM), that a state funeral is the MoD's department, and letters are being forwarded to them.

20th Nov 2005, 13:23

The point is that the whole thing is symbolic. Henry Allingham is the LAST of a generation of servicemen and women who fought in a conflict that involved losses and sufferring on an unimaginable toll, over a prolonged period of time. Symbollically he or an unknown soldier deserves a state funeral far more than Winston Churchill. I agree with all of those who comment that he(Henry)and his family may not want this, i like the idea of an unknown soldier though. It is a vote of the most sincere thanks from the people of this country to a generation who sacrificed everything on our behalf. War is a dreadful thing and servicemen continue to give the ultimate sacrifice as we speak(write!), but short of a nuclear conflict the scale of loss on both sides during WW1 will take a lot of beating.

.Quick straw popll of my office -Question " Would you support a state funeral for Henry Allingham?"
Result - out of 13 polled. 13 said "Who?"

C130 Techies office is clearly full of well informed people who are up-to-date with current affairs. I am left feeling that the chaps in your office can only read the Daily Sport - just an observation.

20th Nov 2005, 15:31
Sorry Tigs

Henry Allingham isn't the last. Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surviving_Veterans_of_the_First_World_War#Australia) lists the following still surviving as well as the veterans from other countries.

Allingham, Henry, b. 6 June 1896

Butcher, Stephen, Navy, b. 20 February 1904
Choles, Claude, Navy, b. 3 March 1901 (born in the UK and fought in the British army; subsequently emigrated to Australia)
Cummins, Kenneth, Navy, b. 6 March 1900
Lawton, Professor Harold, East Yorkshire Regiment, b. 27 July 1899
Lucas, Syd(ney), b. 21 September 1900 (Australian resident; fought for the UK)
Newcombe, Harry, Sussex Regiment, b. circa 1900
Pajaczkowski, Jerzy, b. 19 July 1894 (born in Austria-Hungary)
Patch, Harry, Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, b. 17 June 1898
Rigby, Andrew, First Lancashire Fusiliers, b. 2 November 1900
Roberts, William ("Bill"), Royal Flying Corps, b. 29 September 1900
Stone, William ("Bill"), Navy, b. 23 September 1900
Swarbrick, Nicholas, Merchant Navy, b. 14 November 1898
Young, Will(iam), Royal Flying Corps, b. 4 January 1900 (same as for Choles and Lucas; went over to Australia after World War II)

20th Nov 2005, 21:07
Thanks for the info awesome bit of research. Allingham appears to be the oldest remaining rather than last.

21st Nov 2005, 12:12
BBC News reporting that Alfred Anderson died this morning

21st Nov 2005, 12:36
Sad news indeed.

For those that are interested Harry Patch lives in Somerset at Fletcher House, Glastonbury Road, Wells.

Might pop in and say hello sometime. He seems helluvaboy :-)



C130 Techie
21st Nov 2005, 12:38
Very sad to see the passing of another one. He came across as a very proud and brave man.

Rest In Peace

21st Nov 2005, 15:04
Yes, Very sad. Condolences to his family.

Duncan D'Sorderlee
21st Nov 2005, 15:39
Alfred's ambition, from the above bbc news link:

'He was gentle and very humorous, with a quick wit. He used to say until recently that his ambition was to die shot in bed by a jealous lover'

Perhaps not his desired exit, but at least he is now on parade with his comrades.


21st Nov 2005, 19:44
Last post for WW1 veteran
22 November 2005

The last World War 1 veteran in New Zealand will be laid to rest on the West Coast today.

It has been almost 90 years since teenager Victor (Bob) Rudd lied about his age to enlist with the British Army's 9th Lancers regiment.

Today, the contribution of the English-born cavalryman will be recognised by the Returned Services Association at his funeral in Greymouth. The last New Zealand-born survivor of the Great War, rifleman Bright Williams, died in Hastings in 2003.

Rudd died in Greymouth on Sunday, aged 104.

Despite never having ridden a horse, Private Rudd joined the cavalry and was en route to the front when the armistice was announced on November 11, 1918. Rudd's regiment carried on across France and Belgium to serve 15 months as part of the occupying forces in Germany, digging graves and cleaning up after retreating soldiers.

Rudd's daughter, Valda Rudd, 77, said she was proud of her father, and enjoyed hearing stories of his early days.

"He was a great storyteller. He really held the floor. As he's got older, he hasn't stopped going back to the days of the First World War."

Rudd said her father spoke of how dirty France was, how clean Germany was, and how when he fell off his horse he was made to chase it to get back on.

"He just did as he was told," she said. "That was a short, sharp lesson, and he would say the horses were better fed than the men."

Born in East Dulwich, London, in April 1901, Rudd came to New Zealand after the war and settled in Greymouth, where he worked on the waterfront. For several years, he had a shoe-repair shop with his son and worked as a labourer for the Railways Department, helping dig the Otira tunnel.

Rudd kept good health throughout his life and lived independently until a few days short of his 100th birthday, when he moved into residential care.

A noted draughts and chess player, Rudd was runner-up in the New Zealand national draughts championships on two occasions.

He also enjoyed cards and was a keen indoor bowler.

Rudd, who outlived his wife and son, died at Granger House in Greymouth.

Valda Rudd is his only remaining child.

21st Nov 2005, 23:48
Sad news to hear of the passing of the gentlemen above. Mr Anderson came across with great humour in the programme, despite the horrors he went through before and after his injury. I had a smile at his comment on knowing he was getting old because his son (79 at the time) was retired.

RIP gents, the world owes your generation, and that of your children, more than it can ever express.

As for the idea of a state funeral, at first I thought this a good idea, but on reflection, came to change this. Grief is a very personnal thing and the family of The Last Tommy should be afforded the privacy that they dererve and desire.

However, a national service of rememberance, separate but recognising his and his generation's sacrifice and passing may be a more appropriate method of marking the end of an era.


22nd Nov 2005, 09:04
Wasn't it 209 that claimed the scalp of the Red Baron? ..... yes indeed it was Jacko [sorry for late reply]

...and the "legend" is enshrined in the Squadron Badge: An eagle volant recursant descendant in pale, wings overture ... or a big red bird pointing downwards......

.... I'll see if I'm clever enough to post a picture....

... not clever enough to post a picture, but here's (http://www.rafweb.org/Sqn206-210.htm) a link..

25th Nov 2005, 01:12
I have received an unusually timely response to my letter to my MP....

Dear tablet_eraser

Thank you for your letter dated 7th November 2005 proposing a state funeral for the last person to die who served in the First World War.

I really do think such a proposal is worth serious consideration by the government and I will certainly put the suggestion forward. It really is amazing that we still have such people with us and I would have loved to have met one of them to discuss his experiences.

With best wishes.

Yours sincerely,

Laurence Robertson MP

Speaking from experience, Mr Robertson is a man of his word. I do hope other PPRuNers' MPs are willing to make this suggestion.

25th Nov 2005, 04:53

Here ya go!


Formed originally as No 9 Squadron RNAS at St Pol on 1 February 1917, taking over No 8 (Naval)'s Pups and Nieuports. Initially providing defensive cover to prevent German bombers attacking Southern England and Northern France, it moved to the Western Front in June to assist the RFC. At the same time it received Triplanes, but a month later these were replaced by Camels. It continued operations until February 1918, when the squadron returned to the UK but following the German offensive of the 21 March, was rushed back to the Front. During this offensive, the RAF was formed on 1 April, at which point the squadron was renumber 209.

On the 21st of the month Captain Roy Brown of the squadron was involved in the fight, which ultimately led to the death of the highest scoring pilot of WW1, Baron Manfred von Richthofen, although there is still much debate as to whether he delivered the fatal shot or it was delivered by ground troops. However, whatever is the case, the event is commemorated in the squadron's badge. After the war the squadron remained on the continent until February 1919, when it moved to Scopwick , where it disbanded on 24 June 1919.

Cheers! M2

19th Dec 2005, 17:46
A further letter from my MP:

Dear tablet_eraser,

Thank you for your letter of the 7 November and I apologise for the delay in replying.

I have raised your suggestion with the Prime Minister for a state funeral for the final survivor of the First World War. I have attached for your information a copy of the question and his reply, which I hope are of help.

I hope that the government will take up this suggestion.

With best wishes

Yours sincerely

Laurence Robertson MP

And the attached Hansard extract:

Thursday 24th November 2005 (answered by the Prime Minister on Wednesday 30th November)

Mr Laurence Robertson: To ask the Prime Minister, if he will consider recommending the granting of a state funeral to the last person to die who served in the First World War; and if he will make a statement. (32294)

THE PRIME MINISTER: My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Veterans) (Don Touhig), is currently considering an appropriate way to mark the service and sacrifices of those who served in the First World War, and an announcement will be made in due course.

So, seems to be making some headway. Has anyone else written to their MPs?

20th Dec 2005, 01:55
Yes, I wrote to my MP and still await the courtesy of a reply from Mr Seldom-Glummer.

20th Dec 2005, 10:41
Yes, I wrote to my MP and to the office of the PM on Nov 11 Received an immediate reply from my MP who wrote to MP John Reid. JR's office considering the idea. PM's hacks have not even bothered to reply to my e=mail, automatic response or otherwise.

Compare this tawdry response with that of the Pres of the US. My wife's class wrote poems about the 911 atrocity and didn't know what to do with them. She suggested they sent them. by ordinaryl, to the White House. Within a fortnight the school received a charming thank you letter from GWB plus a signed photograph.

No funny comments please, they will not be appreciated.

Thank you,



24th Dec 2005, 16:15
To all interested parties,

This morning I received in the mail a letter from my MP. In it was another letter from Don Youhig where he confirms ''that the final passing of that generation should be marked in an appropriate manner. Planning for this has already been started and will require fairly consultation within Government and with outside individuals and organisations''.

Details of their plans will be announced as soon as they are in a position to do so.

I think this is good news.


24th Dec 2005, 18:40
I think this is good news well that depends on what the plan is. If the plan is for some sort of circus of a state funeral then it is very bad news. If the plan is for a quiet, family gathering to bid farewell to a loved relative then it is good news.
I also wrote to my MP encouraging him to join the debate and emploring him to vote against any wishes to change the sedate passing away of an ex-serviceman into a state circus.

24th Dec 2005, 20:27

I think you've missed the point. The suggestion is that, with his family's consent, the last serviceman to die who served in the First World War should be granted a State Funeral because his passing will mark the final break with the generation who fought arguably the most brutal war in history. No-one is trying to press-gang anyone into hosting, as you put it, a "State Circus", merely to consider the suggestion that we should mark, in a dignified and formal fashion, the loss of a very brave group of men.

The last "State Circuses" were held for HM The Queen Mother, HRH The Princess Margaret, and Diana, Princess of Wales. None of these three fought for our national survival; although notable for some of their achievements, they did not face the Enemy across a few miles of muddy ground in France to preserve our way of life. Who is more deserving of national mourning?

The proposed State Funeral is supposed to mark the Nation's gratitude to all those who served in the First World War. The death of the last soldier lies outwith the normal Remembrance Day events because, significantly, it marks the end of an epoch of futile, industrialised slaughter in the name of statehood. Maybe you don't agree with it; but perhaps you could find it in yourself to respect the suggestion instead of implying that we're only interested in a vulgar display of pomp and circumstance. If the soldier's family desires a simple family funeral, so be it; the final choice is, after all, theirs to make.

24th Dec 2005, 20:31

Sorry vecvechookattack but I have to disagree with you. Millions of soldiers died in WW1l The unknown soldier lies with the most illustrious in the land and his resting place is a most fitting tribute to those who are ‘known only to God’.

In order to honour the hundreds of thousands of soldiers who gave their lives in the cause, I should like to think that the last remaining soldier be accorded an equally fitting tribute.

The fact that you equate this to a circus is a sad reflection on you. I think, too, that his family would and should be the ones to to have the final say and veto the proposed tribute, if that is their wish, and not an ordinary member of the public such as you, or me.

Thank you.


tablet _ eraser.

You put it far more eloquently than I ever could. Thank you.


24th Dec 2005, 20:48
6 weeks and still no reply from Sec of State for Defence, Armed Forces Minister, Shadow Sec Def. :(

27th Dec 2005, 17:16
Good. He's probably seen sense.

I think that every soldier, Sailor, Airman who serves in Her/His majesties finest should be given due credit for offering their lives as the supreme sacrifice.

However, State funerals are reserved for the Monarchy and for very few people who the state deems have deserved the honour because of their actions or deeds. Being the last person of a particular era to die does not fit into that category.

These people deserve every accolade that is bestowed on them EXCEPT a state funeral.

Stop this ridiculous idea now.

27th Dec 2005, 17:27
well, I ask you? Its a ridiculous suggestion. So, the last serviceman to serve in WW1 gets a state funeral. And then next week we'll have the last but one serviceman who served during suez. Then the week after it will be the turn of the third bloke who boarded the Seaking that flew into Chile in 1982....then....and then....

Nope. State funerals are not for servicemen. Leave well alone.

Colonal Mustard
27th Dec 2005, 19:33
vecvechookattack.................are you T.Blair signed in as the above?:8

27th Dec 2005, 21:13
Col mustard.

Sounds as though he could be a senior, service officer or ex senior, service officer, RN most probably, who is pretty miffed about someone else getting this proposed honour. He misses the point entirely because the reasons advocated are beyond him, or, he wants to miss it and there seems little point in discussing it further with him. I would say he is a small man as well!

Thank you, good night and a happy new year Vecvechookattack.


Further to my last. Am I not correct in thinking the last Australian WW1 veteran received a state funeral?


28th Dec 2005, 14:04
I've looked through this thread a few times now and cannot see one good reason why the last Tommy should be honoured with a state funeral. In fact I can't find any reason why he should. I can see a few posts stating it might be a "good idea" but not one with a reason why it would be a good idea.

So, if anyone can come up with a good reason then lets have it. Remember that the reason has to be a good one. Suggestions such as "because they were brave" won't fit. There is one simple rule concerning the granting of a state funeral that you all seem to be missing. And your correct about the Service. Maybe the reason Im so against it is because I'm in the RN and understand the significance such an occasion brings.

28th Dec 2005, 15:38

The business of a state funeral for the last soldier seems to be becoming a bit of an obsession with you and I cannot quite understand why. State funerals are usually (usually) reseved for the Sovereign as head of State and it is true that few others have had them. The exceptions have been mentioned, with the exception of the fist Earl of Beaconsfield, who did not have one because his family refused it.. The others have been national figures and your comment: “ Nope. State funerals are not for servicemen. Leave well alone” tells one much since all the other recipients were servicemen, but of high rank….precedent, if that is what you are worried about, has already been created….is it that rank is what you are worried about. I think I am beginning to see the true reason for your objection…and, might one ask what the particular rule is that we all appear to be missing?

I fail to see the connection of your being “in the RN and understand the significance that such an occasion brings”. Quite a pompous statement since most of the people on this thread are, or were, serving members of HM Forces; that argument therefore is not particularly sound, or relevant.

My reasons for a “fitting tribute” is that the ‘unknown warrior’ is buried in Westminster Abby and lies with the most illustrious in the land’. His arrival in the UK was marked with a certain amount ceremony and he is a totally unknown person. Do you not see that this last man, whoever he may be, is simply a representative of the millions of men who died in the conflict and it is a fitting tribute to his passing, just as was Nelson's, and all the others.…not just because he was a brave man.

Thank you once again,


28th Dec 2005, 15:53
What a tribute it would be to an entire generation of people who sacrificed so much in the cause in the defense of the country. I would think posters here with their usually joint life experiences of serving the nation would value such a tribute to their comrades in arms.

It seems more appropriate to honour those that did something beyond being born into the right family.

28th Dec 2005, 17:35
Nope, Im not worried about the rank.....don't care if he was an AB or an Admiral. I just don't think that they deserve it. I would defend their right to be remembered for ever.

We owe our freedom to all those brave men and women who made such huge sacrifice for world peace but to say that this event would act as a fitting tribute to the millions of men who died in WW1 is tosh. If that is the case then why not wait for the last German/Polish/Russian/Spanish/French etc etc.... soldier who served in WW1 to die? Why not have a state funeral when the last British Soldier to fight against the Spanish Revelution dies?

No, this would not be a fitting tribute to their memory. Every year we conduct a fitting tribute to their memory. In other commonwealth countries they offer fitting tributes every day with a 2 min silence.

A state funeral for a bloke 99% of the British public have never heard of would be wrong. There are better ways.

28th Dec 2005, 17:37
Care to suggest any?


28th Dec 2005, 17:43
I am half way between nutcracker43 and vevechooattack on this.

The passing of that generation who suffered WW1 is indeed something that should be marked, but I am not too sure that a state funeral is the right way to do it. A sombre state occasion would seem right but somehow wholly out of place, I think we need a truly original and unique way of marking a truly unique occasion. The connection with the tomb of the unknown warrior is a powerful reason for linking this to the Abbey of Westminster in some way. I also have a good deal of sympathy for vevechooattack and his concern over a “state circus”, pomp and ceremony would surely only be seen as glorifying war, the last thing I am sure that nutcracker43 intends in his admirable quest for a state occasion.


Whilst not wishing for one moment to decry the sacrifice and pain of those who fought in WW1, to describe that stupid futile waste of human life as anything approaching a battle “across a few miles of muddy ground in France to preserve our way of life” is way off beam
It was a ridiculous spat between a bunch of cousins who were more concerned with saving face and national pride than preserving the populations way of life. The ruling monarchs of the time had more in common with each other than their own masses who they willingly committed to wholesale slaughter.

28th Dec 2005, 18:25

You and I happen to agree on that point - I believe I was the first to use the world futile. There are so many ways to describe the First World War. Out-and-out butchery probably comes closest. My point was that those men fought for their country (not forgetting the painful irony of the poem "Dulce Et Decorum Est...") and to prevent the risk of their country being invaded. If the BEF had been driven off the continent, Germany would have had time to regroup and rearm and who knows where we'd be now.


We get the point - you don't agree with us! I happen to be mildly offended by your assertion that you know more about State occasions than the rest of us simply because you're in the RN. Maybe you'd care to support that argument?

28th Dec 2005, 21:11

I am not suggesting, in the slightest, that a state funeral would somehow glorify war...that would never be anyone's intention. It is simply a recognition of all the useless sacrifice of that generation. Our friend Vecverchookattack speaks of knowing why state funerals should or should not be allowed and yet fails to share this secret with us. The tone of his post is one of pure humbug, arrogance and small mindedness, I'm afraid. If his intention was to irritate the hell out of me, he has succeeded Something of the subject under discussion is not the place in which to indulge himself and I have one more question for him. Are you, indeed, a small man?


28th Dec 2005, 23:43
I must admit, like others, I'm not sure what is the correct way to go here.

I don't think it won't be fair on all the other servicemen who passed away for the last to get a state funeral, but on the other hand I feel they must be remembered.

I'm sure, sadly, that many children today would know little of what happened between 1939-1945, let alone 1914-18, and we should somehow reinforce to all that we care and know what suffering they endured so that we can be posting these messages.


29th Dec 2005, 01:52
I can see nothing but good in honouring in the last Tommy when he dies. The last ever Tommy will represent his fallen comrades and will take the final posthumous salute on behalf of his brothers-in-arms. No argument, surely.

Like many of you, I was so impressed by the statesmanship and dignity of Harry Patch in the 'The Last Tommy' programmes on BBC. I heard him on the radio recently but his, still incredibly lucid, voice is now beginning to falter. What a wonderful man.

29th Dec 2005, 12:57
Because a state funeral is for the Monarch. On the very rare occasions they are granted by special royal privalege to a person whom the country deems requires a special funeral. Such people such as Princess Diana, The Queen Mother, Churchill etc were all considered special enough that the country almost demanded that the death of those people should be recognised by a grand state occasion such as a state funeral.

An ordinary sailor/Soldier/airman does not warrant that.

The comment about the RN referred to the fact that the RN lead the procession on a state funeral with ratings pulling the funeral carriage. Not sure we have the manpower available to do that anymore.

29th Dec 2005, 14:30
Because a state funeral is for the Monarch.Unless you live in India, where Mother Theresa had a State Funeral, or in Australia, where Australian football icon Johnny Warren was granted a funeral by his home state, he captained Australia to its only appearance in the World Cup finals in 1974.
In Italy, Nicola Calipari, an Italian intelligence officer shot and killed by American troops in Iraq while escorting a former hostage to freedom had a State Funeral. In Spain one was held for the 190 victims of the Madrid train bombings.

An ordinary sailor/Soldier/airman does not warrant that.Unless you live in Spain, where a State Funeral was held for 17 soldiers killed in a plane crash in Afghanistan, or Italy where 18 Italians (12 paramilitary Carabinieri, four army soldiers and two civilians) killed in a suicide bombing in Iraq had a State Funeral.

So there is no real reason why the last Tommy cannot be honoured in this way.

29th Dec 2005, 14:38
Oh, all right then....sorry, Unless you live in Australia or Spain. Maybe thats a better idea then.

But thats my point. If you have a state funeral for ordinary people then the funeral loses its state of occasion. It would become a normal funeral. State Funerals are special. They are not for every tom(my) dick or harry.

Lets honour the last WW1 vet to die properly, with dignity and respect not with a media circus.

Lets hold a military funeral for him. Fly past with a formation of RAF FJ's in the missing man formation. A 19 gun salute, full military honours, bands, flags flying. Lets make the country proud of our ex-servicemen but please don't make the same mistake that the Australian and Spanish people did.

29th Dec 2005, 18:11
Radio 4 PM programme had a piece about this tonight. Ian Duncan Smith and others have tabled an Early Day Motion calling for a state funeral for the last veteran.

Also they interviewed the someone who said that he had asked a number of WW1 veterans if they wanted this. They all said it was a good idea but they didn't want it to be them.

29th Dec 2005, 19:07
Thank goodness for that. If the plan is to raise an EDM then that will be the end of this matter and we can see it fall by the wayside. EDM's rarely get past the front door and will only be debated if they receive 50.1% of parlimetary votes. So, that will be the end of any discussion about stste funerals then.

At the last count this EDM had 21 votes. Which is less than the EDM calling for a pay rise for the cleaners on the London Underground. That shows you the level of support for this silly concept.

I fully support a funeral with full military honours.

31st Dec 2005, 09:56
Well that's it then...You must be very pleased with yourself...


31st Dec 2005, 13:44
Much as I hate to have to agree with VVC in any way, I do not feel that a "State Funeral" for the last WW1 survivor is appropriate. This was done on Armistice Day 1920 for the "Unknown Warrior" (NOT Soldier) whose Body was laid to rest in Westminster Abbey after a procession through the City of London which included the unveiling of the Cenotaph. At the Abbey a Guard of Honour was provided by 100 holders of the Victoria Cross.

A more appropriate course may be to start a campaign to revert to "Remembrance Day" on the 11th of November and make it a Public Holiday as it is in Belgium, Canada, France and the USA. Australia and New Zealand have their commemorations on 25 April - ANZAC Day.

31st Dec 2005, 15:35
Now, thats a much better idea. Lets make Nov 11 a PH.

1st Jan 2006, 14:38

At last we agree on something.

Let us also remind the Public that since the end of WW2 there has been only one year,1968,when a British Serviceman has NOT been killed in action.

The vast majority of Personnel in WW1 & WW2 were conscripts. Whilst not wishing to denigrate in any way their heroism and self sacrifice; we should acknowledge the fact that today the Armed Forces are all volunteers.

Given that in the first half of the 20th Century the UK policed a large Empire, and had border disputes along the boundaries of that Empire; it is possible that 1968 was the only year in that Century where a British serviceman did not lay down his life.

1st Jan 2006, 18:05
Well what ever is decided best they don't take too long.....

Professor Harold Lawton, who died on Christmas Eve aged 106, was an authority on 16th- and 17th-century literature in France, and is thought to have been the last surviving Allied soldier captured on the Western Front.

Lawton crossed the Channel in March 1918 and was sent to join the 4th Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment, in reinforcing the line at Bethune after a Portuguese battalion had been overwhelmed by a German artillery barrage at Armentičres.

When he arrived the situation was chaotic, with the trenches little more than shallow scrapes, so that he and the other new arrivals had to dig in. When the Germans infiltrated their lines, outflanked them and swept past, Lawton and six comrades were cut off for several days without food, ammunition or orders. Eventually the Germans returned, and they had no option but to surrender.

That night, the seven prisoners were put in a wire cage, and taken through Lille. The townspeople were hungry themselves, but they came out and tried to give them bread. It was a kindness that Lawton never forgot. He was incarcerated in a fortress known as the Black Hole of Lille, where hundreds of men were crammed into cells, and had to sleep on wooden shelves. The sanitary conditions were appalling, and many died from wounds, dysentery and influenza.

Lawton was reported missing, believed killed, and it was some time before he was able to write home. Eventually, he was moved to Limburg, Westphalia, and then to a PoW camp at Minden, from which he was released after the Armistice was signed in November. Even then he did not feel entirely safe. During the return to England, in a captured German vessel, the captain told Lawton that there were still mines in the North Sea, and that if the ship was hit, the passengers were to assemble on deck - assuming that it was still there.

Daily Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/12/26/db2601.xml&sSheet=/portal/2005/12/26/ixportal.html)

According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surviving_veterans_of_the_First_World_War), that leaves 12 surviving British veterans. However, only 9 are still living in the UK. The other 3 emigrated to Australia after the war.

2nd Jan 2006, 12:06
So if the last surviving serviceman who served in WW! doesn't actually live in the UK....when he dies, do we drag his body back for the state funeral?

or should we go with the last surviving serviceman who lives in the UK. Snag with that of course is that he might not be the last one to die...he could be the last but one (or 2 or 3)....which would make a mockery of it all wouldn't it?

7th Feb 2006, 22:07
11 surviving now.... (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/lancashire/4690564.stm)
The last remaining merchant sailor from the First World War has died aged 107, his family have said.
Nicholas Swarbrick died peacefully last Thursday at the nursing home in Grimsargh, Lancashire, where he spent his final years.
His death leaves just 11 soldiers, sailors and airmen from the Great War, said a National Archives spokesman.
Most of these live in the south of England, apart from two in Australia and one who lives in Derby.
Mr Swarbrick served as a merchant seaman during the 1914-1918 conflict.
His nephew, Rodney Swarbrick, said : "We are coming to the end of an era.
"He was a remarkable man. He thought he had lived in the most exciting century the world has ever seen. He thought he had been lucky to live through a century of such unparalleled endeavour and achievement for mankind."
In an interview last year to mark Armistice Day, Mr Swarbrick said he could still recall the death of Queen Victoria as a boy and his memories of the war years lived on with him.
Born in Grimsargh, near Preston, he joined the Merchant Navy aged 17 and trained as a radio officer. German U-Boats took a terrible toll on Allied shipping, sending thousands of service personnel, and civilians, to a watery grave.
Mr Swarbrick said: "I was the radio officer and could hear when ships were being sunk.
SOS distress
"I could hear the SOS messages from torpedoed ships, ships in distress and going down and hearing their death throes. It was pretty horrifying to hear what was happening on the airwaves.
"And the instructions we had was not to go to their aid, because you yourself then became a target for the sub lurking close by.
"You had to get the hell out of it rather than go to help - that would be merely to commit suicide.
"I always expected us to be next, I think we just got used to that fear, but it never happened to us."
Working life
Mr Swarbrick remained in the Merchant Navy for 13 years.
He switched to his father's farm business in Grimsargh for the rest of his working life.
Mr Swarbrick remained teetotal and single all his life, but one of his nephews is an officer in the Royal Navy.
He died in a nursing home which overlooks land which his father and he once farmed.
The veteran will be cremated at Preston Crematorium on Friday.
According to the National Archives there are three sailors from the Royal Navy, who served in the First World War, who are still alive, four soldiers, three members of the Royal Flying Corps and one member of the Royal Navy Air Service.

Pom Pax
8th Feb 2006, 07:57
I agree with idea of a state funeral for the last survivor if the family concur.
However there seems to be some confusion over what is a state funeral.
State funerals are reserved for the Monarch and for very few people who the state deems have deserved the honour because of their actions or deeds.
vecvechookattack You were nearly correct but you said Monarchy.
The funerals of HM The Queen Mother, HRH The Princess Margaret, and Diana, Princess of Wales were all Royal Funerals not State funerals. As such these are just family funerals but very public. I was made aware of this subtle difference by a series of photographs in either the Express or the Mail after the funeral of Queen Mary. These showed the mourners following the coffin in both Queen Mary's and King George VIth's funerals. In King George's case Prince Philip leads the mourners (as the husband of the Monarch) followed by royal males in order of succession and way last the Duke of Windsor. At Queen Mary's funeral the Duke of Windsor leads as senior family member and Prince Philip is after the Duke of Gloucester (and possibly the Earl of Harewood).
Finally I am sure if the last survivor happens to be an Australian resident under the current administration a State funeral will be offered

8th Feb 2006, 12:33
Pom Pax

No..... they were state funerals.

State sunerals are reserved for the Monarchy, and persons deemed to be of significance worthy of a state funeral.

Princess Diana was not a member of the Royal Family after her divorce. She was granted a state funeral as the mother of the future King, this being deemed of worthy significance.

Please don't trust the Express or Daily Mail as authoritative sources concerning British traditions, because they claim more than they know.

8th Feb 2006, 12:41
I believe that Sir Winston Churchill was given a state funeral.
We should give Tony Blair one, which might upset him as he isn't dead.

8th Feb 2006, 12:51
It'd please me, though.

28th Feb 2006, 16:11
The nation will say thank-you to its veterans this summer with the launch of Britain's annual Veterans Day. Veterans' Minister Don Touhig announced today that young and old will join together on June 27 for a national event in London, with local celebrations across the country.

As well as inaugurating June 27 as Veterans' Day, this year's events will honour the holders of the Victoria Cross and George Cross.

Mr Touhig said: "I am truly excited about the celebrations in London.
But I am also keen that Veterans Day should be a genuinely national occasion. So, I am calling on communities across Britain to organise their own local celebrations for Veterans Day."

Mr Touhig added: "This announcement follows the great success of last year's Veterans Awareness Week. Every year, June 27 will be our chance to thank our veterans for the sacrifices they have made for us. It will also let us honour the serving men and women of our Armed Forces.

"In Britain we can vote, learn, speak and live freely because our armed forces have defended our values. Our message is simple: if you enjoy your freedom, thank our veterans.

"Veterans come in all ages, shapes and sizes. They may be old or young but they have the same distinction. They have worn their country's uniform with pride and have honoured their promise to defend their country."

At last some sense.

7th Mar 2006, 12:13
RFC veteran, Ex-Leading Aircraftswomen Alice baker has died.

8th Mar 2006, 03:26
I don't think we have ,in New Zealand, any WW1 veterans left, and it was only on Armistice Day in 2004 that a Tomb of the Unknown Warrior was created in Wellington in a very moving ceremony. All we know of him was that he lost his life sometime between April 1916 and November 1918. We do know that that his body was found without identification other than that he was a New Zealander, and was buried in Northern France, at Longueval. There were, however, some 12,483 Kiwis lost on the Western Front, and of those 33 per cent disappeared , or were recovered but not identified, so our soldier could be any one of those.

We, that is my wife and I, gained an invite because two of her father's elder brothers are buried in France, and another, a cousin, was never found but is commemorated on a separate memorial in France. In May this year, we are going to France to visit both graves, something I don't think anyone in the family has been able to do.

Personally, for you in the UK, when the last one fades away, I think there should be something hugely significant done to mark the occasion, and a State Funeral seems very appropriate.We'll never see the likes again.

19th Apr 2006, 11:03
Here is the latest from Defence News:
It is reported that a national day of commemoration could be staged to mark the passing of the last British veterans of the First World War, the Government has indicated. Don Touhig, the defence minister responsible for veterans, told MPs that the Government was considering proposals for a national memorial service, which could be accompanied by events in communities and schools across the country. There had been a campaign for a state funeral to be held for the last First World War veteran. But Mr Touhig voiced doubts about calls this proposal, as it was riddled with difficulties. Ministers did not have a comprehensive list of surviving veterans, making it "impossible" to identify the last survivor with any certainty, he said. "Inevitably the numbers of surviving veterans of World War One will dwindle, but the numbers of those known to us do go up as well as down," he added. 19/04/2006

19th Apr 2006, 17:52
I am not sure that it matters too much if the last veteran is located, so long as a best effort is made to do so. There must be some uncertainty but I think the public would like a ceremony based the most likely last man than to have no ceremony because of difficulties with a 100% identification. I saw last night that the City of San Francisco found 9 survivors of the earthquake in 1906; if they can manage something like that I think we should put in some effort on this and have an appropriate ceremony, of which the public seems to approve.

21st Apr 2006, 17:32
Henry Allingham awarded freedom of Eastbourne (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/southern_counties/4931102.stm)

21st Apr 2006, 18:51
From the BBC:-

"Mr Allingham said the whisky, along with "cigarettes and wild, wild women", was the secret of his long life."


21st Apr 2006, 20:40
A typical Bureaucrats grasp of reality!

"Inevitably the numbers of surviving veterans of World War One will dwindle, but the numbers of those known to us do go up as well as down," he added.

You reckon that dunderhead has any idea to what number they will "dwindle" to?

23rd Apr 2006, 20:28
I see the Wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surviving_Veterans_of_the_First_World_War#Living_in_the_Unit ed_Kingdom_-_9_veterans) has been updated to show that there are 9 veterans still living the UK. They have put those that emigrated to Australia under Australians still surviving.

But it also throws up a new question - what if the last person did not see action?

5 of the surviving people saw no action. 2 of them were still in training when the war ended. Should these 2 be included in the list?

To my mind and using the qualifying dates that were used by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for war graves treatment - 4 Aug 1914 - 31 August 1921, if you were in the forces whether you saw action or not then you are included in the list of surviving veterans. That last date was the official date that the war ended.

I have carried out research into the names inscribed on a number of war memorials - a humbling experience to see the ages that these men were when they died compared to what they could have lived to. My own personal feeling is that 11 November should be restored as the official Remembrance day and become a public holiday as soon as possible so that those who survived are still around to see it happen.

23rd Apr 2006, 22:17
Assuming that the last survivor was sufficiently aware of the world - and thankfully those remaining seem to be - wouldn't it be somewhat less than a tribute to present the poor old sod with a realisation in his last days that the nation [or more accurately its media] was anticipating his death?

23rd Apr 2006, 23:47
Why not wait until the number reaches 5, then honour each and everyone of them.

Let the Heritage Lottery fund come up with the funds, seeing as there is probably no chance that Mr Moneybags Brown will fund it from state funds (Unless they need a haircut).

May the time we have to wait for this event be as long as possible.

Heartfelt thanks to them all.

23rd Apr 2006, 23:58
An excellent idea. Give the old boys some recognition while they are still here to enioy it. They certainly deserve it.

4th May 2006, 17:49
William Roberts, one of the few remaining British veterans has died aged 105.

27th Jun 2006, 10:46
BBCi now running a newsflash saying that the last WW1 veteran to die will receive a state funeral.

The item (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/5120358.stm) says that the govt has consulted with the veterans concerned.

27th Jun 2006, 19:32
It won't be a fun a state funeral but a national memorial service to be held "within about 12 weeks" of the death of the last veteran.
BBC story (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/5120358.stm)

27th Jun 2006, 22:48
I think we won. Enough questions were asked that somebody, somewhere had to do something.

It's only right that we salute their passing in memory of what they and their comrades did for us.

And I salute all of you who did something to ensure this happened.

27th Jun 2006, 23:43
I couldn't agree more and Im pleased that the powers that be saw sense and avoided the circus of a State Funeral - That would have been completely wrong. A memorial service sounds just the right thing.

My only concern is that the authorities don't really know how many Veterans there are still alive, nor who they are nor where they are. What would happen if during the funeral procession another one pitched up....and what would happen if he were a German...or god forbid, a Frenchman ????