Claude Choules, who lied about his age to enlist in Britain’s Royal Navy, has died in Australia. He was 110.
Choules saw action in the North Sea on the HMS Revenge, where he later witnessed the surrender of the German fleet in November 1918. He remained in uniform until 1956, transferring to the Royal Australian Navy in 1926 and serving in World War II as a demolition and explosives expert.
Choules’ death ends mankind’s living memory of combat in the Great War. The last known American veteran, Frank Buckles, died in February, also at 110.
Yes, the flame of firsthand memory has faded and burned out. But now that Choules, Buckles and their comrades all have died, those of us who remain inherit an obligation. We must never forget the so-called War to End All Wars. We must never forget the sacrifices of those who went to that war for us. We must never forget the horrors that they – and their enemies – faced.
To help us to remember, friends; that is the purpose of memorials. They stand as a constant reminder. The Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium was built by Hawai’i as a living memorial, one where families would gather to swim and play. It was built to remind us not only of more than 10,000 World War I soldiers, sailors and airmen from Hawai’i, but to remind us also of the liberty and values they fought to defend.
May Claude, Frank and their comrades-in-arms all rest in peace. And may we never forget.