Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

First World War Tommy dies at 108

One of the five remaining First World War veterans has died, it has been confirmed.

Sydney Lucas died on Tuesday evening in his adopted home town of Rosebud near Melbourne, Australia, aged 108, the World War One Veterans’ Association said.

Leicester-born Mr Lucas was 17 when he was conscripted as a soldier in August 1918. But due to a mix of timing and illness he never saw action in either of the World Wars.

He was still training when the First World War ended with Germany’s signing of the armistice on November 11, 1918. After the war he emigrated to Australia in 1928 were he worked as a plumber, painter and decorator.

But in the late 1930s as the world once again lurched into all-out war, the ever-willing Mr Lucas signed up to serve with the Australian Army.

But he was again thwarted in his attempt to serve his new country when he was struck down with appendicitis after arriving in Palestine.</>\[Chris Cairns\]This meant he could not continue with his comrades to Crete, where the Allies suffered heavy casualties in a failed attempt to fight off the German invasion. He spent the remainder of the conflict guarding prisoners of war in Australia.

Dennis Goodwin, chairman of the World War One Veterans’ Association, said: “He didn’t actually fight in either World War but he was always ready, willing and able.

“Like so many of the soldiers he found that once the First World War was over there was another struggle to fight — getting a job.

“There were strikes and not enough work to go round.

“Like many other people at the time he chose to emigrate to Australia where he set up home.

“It’s a real shame he’s died before next week’s anniversary but I’m sure he will be in all of our thoughts.”

Mr Lucas said in a 2005 interview: “We trained with a mix of fear and excitement, so when the war ended before we’d completed our training it almost felt like an anticlimax.

“We wanted to fight for our country, but I think that was more to do with boyish immaturity.

“My enduring memories are of being constantly cold, dirty and exhausted, homesick and lonely.”

Of the five million men and women who served in Britain’s armed forces in the First World War, only four are still alive. The last three British-based survivors are Henry Allingham, 112, Harry Patch, 110 and Bill Stone, 108.

The other known surviving veteran, Claude Choules, 107, also lives in Australia. Health permitting, the three UK-based veterans will lead a two-minute silence at the Cenotaph in London to commemorate Armistice Day next Tuesday.Story 'pavet' fetched from queue

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