The memoirs of the last man alive to have served in a military capacity in both world wars.
In 2009, aged 108, Claude Choules became the last man alive on active service before the 1918 Armistice and the last who served in both world wars. Told of this unsought accolade, he remarked: "Everything comes to those who wait and wait." It was a characteristically adroit comment from a man who learned life's lessons during a rural childhood in England and later in the Royal Navy as a boy sailor, before graduating to become an explosives expert.
Having transferred to the Australian navy before the Second World War, Claude was ready to do his bit against the might of the Japanese army with the considerable quantities of explosives he had at his disposal. At the end of the war, there was at last time to enjoy all the riches that the continent had to offer. In his 80s, realising he had enjoyed a life well lived, Claude began working on his memoirs with the help of his daughters, and in The Last of the Last he provides a riveting account of his lifetime, one that vividly mirrors how the last century unfolded.
Claude has the insight of an ordinary man thrust to the forefront of international furore. He is opposed to the glorification of war, but his charming anecdotes honour a generation called upon to serve not once but twice. This engaging, wryly humorous autobiography reflects the amiable nature of a truly unique man, the world's last living combatant of the First World War. (pb)