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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 August, 2004, 06:15 GMT 07:15 UK
Veteran, 105, speaks of Great War
Tom Kirk
A photograph of Tom Kirk, aged 20, taken in 1921
A 105-year-old veteran from the north-east of England has spoken of his experiences during World War I.

Tom Kirk, from Woolsington, in Newcastle, is one of just 23 surviving veterans of the Great War, the outbreak of which is commemorated on Wednesday.

The ceremony, at the Cenotaph in London, will mark the 90th anniversary of Britain's declaration of war on Germany in 1914.

Mr Kirk, born in Hartlepool, joined the navy in 1917 as a surgeon probationer.

'No hospital work'

Aged 18, he was training as a doctor in Newcastle and left medical school to serve aboard a destroyer.

He said: "I had a few weeks to learn something about wound dressing in casualty at the RVI. Until then I had done no hospital work.

"I visited Fenham Barracks for medical examinations and then marched off to camp at Chopwell, breaking step on Scotswood suspension bridge.

June Walker and Tom Kirk
Mr Kirk now lives with his daughter, June Walker
"Eventually, I got called to a hospital in Gosport, where I spent my days in the wards.

"When our postings came up I was sent to an L-class destroyer, the HMS Lydiard, at Portsmouth. The ship had a crew of 105 and I was the only medical officer."

The Lydiard spent several months escorting merchant ships across the channel, to and from France.

During the winter of 1917, the destroyer also made expeditions to Norway, escorting convoys.

Mr Kirk said: "We had to look out for enemy submarines and also escorted the first batch of American soldiers from Southampton to Le Havre when the Americans joined the war.

"The Germans fired torpedoes at us a few times. Luckily, they never hit."

After the war finished, Mr Kirk returned to medical school, then became a GP in Lincolnshire.

When World War II broke out he served in the Home Guard, whilst simultaneously running a doctor's surgery in Barton-on-Humber.

Mr Kirk, who now lives with his daughter June Walker, 77, was invited to join in the service at the Cenotaph, but cannot make the journey.

Honours for World War I veterans
21 Jun 04  |  England



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