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March 17, 2011
By Gary Booth
AUSTRALIA'S only surviving former
serviceman of World War I and II,
Claude Choules, celebrated his 110th
birthday on March 3.
A small group of personnel from
HMAS Stirling joined Mr Choules and
his family and friends at the Perth retire-
ment village where he resides.
CO Stirling CAPT Brett Wolski
described Mr Choules as a "living
national treasure" and, on behalf of
Chief of Navy VADM Russ Crane,
wished him a very happy birthday.
Speaking on behalf of her father, Mr
Choules' daughter Anne said he was
always proud of his Navy service and
considered the Navy his other family.
"We are grateful for the Navy's con-
tinued association with our father and
family," she said.
A former Royal Navy WWI and
Royal Australian Navy WWII veteran,
'National treasure' turns 110
ence of the
Mr Choules joined the RN as a boy in
1916, and served in the Naval Training
Ship HMS Impregnable at Devonport
dockyard. In 1917, he joined the battle-
ship HMS Revenge, Flagship of the First
While serving in Revenge, Mr
Choules witnessed the surrender of the
German Fleet at Firth of Forth in 1918,
10 days after the Armistice and later the
scuttling of the German Fleet at Scapa
Mr Choules served in the battleship
Valiant with the Mediterranean Fleet
between 1920 and 1923. A subsequent
posting saw him stand by the construc-
tion of the RN's first purpose-built
aircraft carrier HMS Eagle, which was
followed by a two-year posting as a
petty officer on board Eagle, again in the
In 1926, along with 11 other RN sen-
ior sailors, Mr Choules came to Australia
on loan as an instructor at Flinders Naval
Depot. Taking a liking to the Australian
way of life, he decided to transfer perma-
nently to the RAN.
After courses to become a chief
torpedo and anti-submarine instructor,
Mr Choules stood by the building of the
RAN's heavy cruisers Australia II and
Canberra I. He was a commissioning
crew member of Canberra and served in
her until 1931.
Mr Choules discharged from the
RAN in 1931, however, he remained
in the RANR and rejoined the RAN in
1932 as a CPO torpedo and anti-subma-
During WWII, he was the acting tor-
pedo officer and chief demolition officer
in the West.
Early in the war he was flown to
Esperance to identify a mine washed
ashore nearby. Eventually the mine was
identified as German and Mr Choules
disposed of the first mine to wash up on
Australian soil during WWII. As the
he had the
in the advent
of a Japanese
the dark days of 1942, explosive charges
were in place to carry out this task. Mr
Choules had depth charges placed in
ships that had been unable to sail from
Fremantle for safe harbour in Albany
during this period, with the intent of
sinking them should the Japanese invade.
He remained in the RAN after WWII
and transferred to the Naval Dockyard
Police (NDP) to allow him to remain
in the Service until 1956, as retirement
from the RAN for ratings in those days
was at 50 -- personnel could serve until
55 in the NDP.
After retirement from the NDP,
he purchased a cray fishing boat and
spent 10 years fishing off the Western
HMAS Canberra I
LIVING LEGEND: (Above) Claude
Choules, Australia's only surviving
WWI and II veteran, recently turned
110 years old.
Photo: LSIS Nadia Monteith
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