Thursday, 6 November 2008

First World War Veteran Dies

by Kathryn Hadley

Just a week before the ninetieth anniversary of the Armistice, First World War veteran Sydney Maurice Lucas died in Australia, on Tuesday November 4th, aged 108. Lucas was born in Leicester on September 21st, 1900. He was among the last group of conscripts to be called up and was just 17 when he joined the Sherwood Foresters in August 1918. The armistice was signed, however, whilst he was still in training in England and he never saw the French trenches. He moved to Australia in 1928.

Following the outbreak of the Second World War, he volunteered for the Australian army and was posted to a machine gun company. He travelled to Palestine where Australian troops were preparing to sail to Greece following the German invasion in April 1941. He developed appendicitis, however, and was unable to leave with his battalion. Sydney Lucas returned to Australia on board the Queen Mary and was discharged from the army in November 1941.

Speaking about his experiences, in 2005, he described how:

"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, exhausted, homesick and lonely."

Lucas was one of the five surviving First World War veterans, one of whom, Claude Choules, 111, also lives in Australia. On November 11th, as part of the Armistice celebrations, the further three surviving veterans in Britain, Henry Allingham, 112, Harry Patch, 110, and Bill Stone, 108, are expected to lead a two-minute silence at the Cenotaph in London.

Read about those who did fight or see our First World War section

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