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First World War veteran turns 110

One of the last two surviving First World War veterans is celebrating his 110th birthday.

Claude Choules, who sneaked into the British navy in 1915 aged just 14 and served there for 41 years, will be the centre of attention at a party for family, friends and military representatives in his adopted home town of Perth, Australia.

His daughter Anne Pow said Mr Choules - known by his nickname "Chuckles" - was healthy and happy in the nursing home where he has lived for the past 10 years, though he can no longer see or hear very well.

The Order of the First World War, a US group that tracks veterans, lists British-born Mr Choules and Londoner Florence Green, a waitress in the Women's Royal Air Force, as the last living veterans of the 1914-1918 conflict.

Mr Choules' three children and some of his 11 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren gathered for the party, along with the commander and other personnel from HMAS Stirling, the Australian naval base in Perth, who came in their dress whites.

"I don't know that he's overwhelmed by it," said Ms Pow. "He just takes it pretty much as, 'It is what it is, that's how old I am, that's life'."

Mr Choules was born in Worcester in 1901 and the war was raging when he began training with the Royal Navy. In 1917 he joined the battleship HMS Revenge, from which he watched the surrender of the German High Seas Fleet, the main battle fleet of the German navy during the war.

He stayed in the military for 41 years, transferring to the Royal Australian Navy in the 1920s and working on clearing mines that washed ashore on the west coast during the Second World War.

Mr Choules met Ethel Wildgoose in 1926 on the first day of a visit to Australia as a naval trainer and they married within a year. The couple settled in Perth after he transferred permanently to the Royal Australian Navy. He retired in 1956 and he and his wife lived happily together until her death in 2003, at 98.

Ms Pow said her father was used to the attention that has grown around his status as one of the last veterans, and took it in his stride. "He's a happy man," she said. "He's very fond of the carers, and they of him, and his family is around him."

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