SYDNEY, Australia - The last known combat veteran of World War I, Claude Stanley Choules, defied the tolls of time - swimming in the sea as a centenarian and publishing his first book at 108.
And despite the fame his military service (and longevity) brought him, Mr. Choules later in life became a pacifist, boycotting parades that he felt glorified war.
Mr. Choules, a man of humble spirit and wry humor, died in a Western Australia nursing home Thursday at age 110.
Although his accomplishments were many - including a 41-year military career that spanned two navies and two World Wars - the man known as "Chuckles" to his comrades in the Australian navy was happiest being known as a family man.
"We all loved him," his 84-year-old daughter, Daphne Edinger, said. "It's going to be sad to think of him not being here any longer, but that's the way things go."
Mr. Choules was born March 3, 1901, in the British town of Pershore, Worcestershire, one of seven children. As a child, he was told his mother had died, a lie meant to cover up a more painful truth: She left when he was 5 to pursue an acting career.
The abandonment affected him profoundly, said his other daughter, Anne Pow, and he grew up determined to create a happy home for his children.
In his autobiography, The Last of the Last, published just two years ago, he remembered the day the first motorcar drove through town, an event that brought all the villagers outside to watch.
He was drawn to the water at an early age, fishing and swimming at the local brook. Later in life, he would regularly swim in the warm waters off the Western Australia state coast, only stopping when he turned 100.
World War I was raging when Mr. Choules began training with the British Royal Navy, just a month after he turned 14. In 1917, he joined the battleship HMS Revenge, from which he watched the 1918 surrender of the German High Seas Fleet.
"There was no sign of fight left in the Germans as they came out of the mist at about 10 a.m.," Mr. Choules wrote in his autobiography.
Mr. Choules and another Briton, Florence Green, became the war's last known surviving service members after the death of American Frank Buckles in February, according to the Order of the First World War, a U.S.-based group that tracks veterans.
Mr. Choules, who settled permanently Down Under after joining the Royal Australian Navy, was the last known surviving combatant of the war. Green, who turned 110 in February, was a waitress in the Women's Royal Air Force.
During World War II, Mr. Choules was the acting torpedo officer in Fremantle, Western Australia, and chief demolition officer for the western side of the Australian continent. He disposed of the first mine to wash ashore in Australia during the war.