Monday, January 21, 2008
WWI Veterans Recall
Friday, 9 November 2007, 11:44 GMT
Surviving WWI: Veterans' stories
Ahead of Remembrance Sunday, Britain's surviving World War I veterans talked to Charles Wheeler for the BBC's Ten O'Clock News about their memories of the conflict.
Harry Patch, who is 109 years old, was called up for service in 1917 when he worked as an 18-year-old apprentice plumber in Bath.
World War I veteran Harry Patch
Mr Patch fought at the battle of Passchendaele in Belgium - a conflict that lasted three months and cost nearly 500,000 lives on both sides.
That summer was one of the wettest on record and no-man's land became a sea of mud where men drowned cowering from machine-gun and sniper fire.
Speaking about life in the trenches, Mr Patch said: "If any man tells you he went into the front line and wasn't scared, he's a liar."
Claude Choules, who is now 106, served in the Royal Navy during the Great War. He signed up in 1916 when he was just a boy.
World War I veteran Claude Choules
"We used to see hospital ships coming across and soldiers being wheeled off them," Mr Choules said, recounting his time in the Navy.
During the war, the Germans inflicted significant damage on the British fleet, notably at the Battle of Jutland in 1916, the largest clash of big-gun battleships of all time.
While serving on HMS Revenge in 1918 Claude Choules witnessed the mass surrender of Germany's imperial Navy.
In the 1920s he was seconded to the Royal Australian Navy as an instructor. He stayed in Australia and he now lives in Perth.
William Stone, 107, is one of only two ex-serviceman still living in Britain to have served in both world wars.
Veteran William Stone
Mr Stone joined the Navy on his birthday in 1918 and served until 1945. His strongest memories are of World War II and the Battle of Dunkirk.
"One of our ships, Skipjack, was bombed and she just disappeared. Two hundred soldiers and all the crew were killed", he said.
Mr Stone, who now lives near Wokingham, was presented with the National Veterans' Badge in 2004, for his service to the UK.
Syd Lucas, 107, was called up in 1918 and saw service in both world wars.
Veteran Syd Lucas
Mr Lucas was the youngest of three brothers. Both his siblings fought in France.
He said: "The youngest one of the two was blown up twice but he didn't get any bad injuries and the other one was shot through the finger, that's all he got. They were lucky."
Mr Lucas was trained in Derby and then Yorkshire but when the war ended in November he was sent home before he had to leave the country.
He emigrated to Australia between the two wars and has a son and a daughter who are now 78 and 82.
At 111-years-old, Henry Allingham is the oldest survivor of World War I.
Oldest veteran Henry Allingham
Mr Allingham is the last survivor of the Battle of Jutland in 1916, before joining the Royal Flying Corps and serving on the French front.
Now a resident at St. Dunstan's, a home in Brighton for ex-servicemen, he makes frequent trips to France to speak to school children.
During a visit to the graves of servicemen he said "all of us must remember them, always".