Last WWI veteran dies

Florence Green receiving her birthday cake from Hannah Shaw of the RAF (Image courtesy of the Royal British Legion)

The last surviving veteran of World War I has died in Norfolk, just shy of her 111th birthday.

Florence Green, died on Saturday February 4 in a nursing home. She had moved into the home only last November. Previously she had lived with her 90-year-old daughter.

She was born Florence Patterson in London in 1901 and the family moved to Norfolk not long after.  Aged 17, she joined the Women’s RAF in 1918, serving in Marham, Norfolk.

The First World War was the first time women had worked outside the domestic sphere in large numbers. They kept ‘the home fire burning’ and worked in munitions factories. Others again worked in the military in roles such as food service and nursing. Florence Green was a steward in the officer’s mess and served the airmen their meals.

Despite being in the RAF, Mrs Green had a fear of flying. She refused to go aloft despite many offers. Although the world had suffered four years of a  cataclysmic war that had wiped out a generation of Europe’s young men, the atmosphere in the mess was not always grim. “I met dozens of pilots and would go on dates,” she said in 2010.

After the war ended Mrs Green remained in the RAF until 1919. In 1920 she married Walter Green, a railway porter. The couple had two daughters and a son. Her youngest daughter June, aged 76, paid tribute to her in the Eastern Press: “She led an amazing and extraordinary life. She must have seen a lot of changes in her time.I never heard anyone say a bad word about her. She would never blow her own trumpet and certainly wouldn’t shout about the fact she was the last veteran. She was very proud of what she did and we are all very proud of her. Her death does close the book on the First World War as there are no veterans left now.”

Indeed her modesty was such that her service in the war went unacknowledged until 2009, when a local paper wrote about her experiences on the occasion of her 108thbirthday. On her 110th birthday RAF officer Andrew Burns and steward Hannah Shaw from Marham presented her with a birthday cake.

The last male veteran of WWI, Claude Stanley Choules, died last year at the age of 110 in Perth, Australia. Florence Green was the last survivor of the 70 million mobilised for World War I.

RIP Florence Green. 

This article appeared on on February 9 2012. 

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