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Last known WWI veteran dies aged 110

Florence Green, who served with the RAF as a waitress on an air base, was the last known survivor of the conflict.

Florence Green on her 109th birthday in 2010
Florence Green on her 109th birthday in 2010
Image: AP Photo/Sac Chris Hill/MoD, HO

FLORENCE GREEN NEVER saw the front line. Her war was spent serving food, not dodging bullets.

But Green, who has died aged 110, was the last known surviving veteran of World War I. She was serving with the Women’s Royal Air Force as a waitress at an air base in eastern England when the guns fell silent on November 11, 1918.

It was not until 2010 that she was officially recognized as a veteran after a researcher found her service record in Britain’s National Archives.

Green died Saturday at the Briar House Care Home in King’s Lynn, eastern England, two weeks before her 111th birthday, the home said.

She was born Florence Beatrice Patterson in London on February 19, 1901, and joined the newly formed Women’s Royal Air Force in September 1918 at the age of 17.

The service trained women to work as mechanics, drivers and in other jobs to free men for front-line duty. Decades later, Green remembered her wartime service with affection.

“I met dozens of pilots and would go on dates,” she said in an interview in 2008. “I had the opportunity to go up in one of the planes but I was scared of flying. I would work every hour God sent. But I had dozens of friends on the base and we had a great deal of fun in our spare time. In many ways, I had the time of my life.”

After the war she stayed in the area, raising three children with her husband Bob Green.

Once her service record was rediscovered, the RAF embraced the centenarian veteran, marking her 110th birthday in February 2011 with a cake.

Asked what it was like to be 110, Green said “It’s not much different to being 109.”

She praised the officers she had served during the war as perfect gentlemen.

“It was very pleasant and they were lovely,” she said. “Not a bit of bother. They kept us on our toes and there was no slacking.”

The last known soldier to have fought in the brutal trench warfare that has become the enduring image of the conflict was Britain’s Harry Patch, who died in 2009 aged 111.

The war’s last known combatant, Royal Navy veteran Claude Choules, died in Australia in May. This video shows one of his final interviews, in which he discusses his war experience:

(Video: SuperMickeymouse1)

The date of Green’s funeral was not immediately known, but RAF squadron leader Paula Willmot said air force personnel would attend, and the RAF Association would provide a bugler and a Union Jack to drape on the coffin

“It will be a real send-off for her,” Willmot said.

- Additional reporting by Michael Freeman

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