Claude Choules and Anzac Day

Submitted by Matthew on 11 May, 2011 - 10:13

Claude Choules, the last man alive to have fought in World War One — and in fact to have fought in both World Wars — died on 5 May at the age of 110.

He lied about his age to join the British navy in 1916. He settled in Australia, and fought in World War Two as an officer in the Australian navy.

His daughter Daphne Edinger said in 2009: “After my father left the navy, he never went to Anzac Day again. He didn’t think we should glorify war.”

Anzac day (25 April) in Australia is roughly an equivalent of Remembrance Day in Britain, but a much bigger deal. It is a public holiday. Until 1966 all entertainment was banned on the day. There are marches and big ceremonies. Schoolkids are herded into “Anzac Day parades”.

Although the date is chosen as the anniversary of Australian troops invading Turkey during World War One, and Turkey has never threatened Australia, celebrants claim that the “Anzac spirit” is about “defending our freedoms”.

In the 1970s there were significant anti-war protests in Australia on Anzac day, but they have faded away since then. Maybe Choules’s memory can be marked by a revival.

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