Page last updated at 04:50 GMT, Friday, 19 February 2010

Final Canadian WWI veteran dies

John Babcock (file pic)
John Babcock enlisted to fight but never saw active combat

The last Canadian veteran of World War I has died at the age of 109.

John Babcock enlisted at the age of 15 after lying about his age. He trained in Canada and England but the war ended before he reached the French frontline.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Mr Babcock was Canada's last living link to the Great War.

At least three other people who served with the forces in World War I are known to still be alive - an American, a British-born Australian and a Briton.

The Canadian prime minister, paying tribute to the 650,000 Canadian men and women who served during WW1, said: "Today they are all gone.

"Canada mourns the passing of the generation that asserted our independence on the world stage and established our international reputation as an unwavering champion of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law," Mr Harper said.

I wanted to go to France because I was just a tin soldier
John Babcock
Speaking in 2007

John Babcock was born on July 23, 1900 on a farm in Ontario.

In February 1916, at the age of 15, he signed up and the medical examiner recorded his "apparent age" as 18, which meant he was allowed to train.

Despite being under the legal age to fight, which was 19, he persisted in his attempts to get to the front line.

He lied about his age again, and sailed to Britain with the Royal Canadian Regiment. There, conscripts under the legal age of 19 formed the Young Soldiers' Battalion to train until they were eligible to fight.

But he never saw action as the armistice was signed six months before he reached his 19th birthday.

"I wanted to go to France because I was just a tin soldier," Mr Babcock said in an interview with the Canadian Press in July 2007.

Second attempt

In October 1918, after a brawl between Canadian soldiers and British Army veterans in Wales over a dancehall incident, Mr Babcock was sentenced to 14 days house arrest, the Canadian Press reported.

Before the fortnight was over, the armistice had been signed and he was on his way home.

He moved to the US in the 1920s, serving in the United States Army between 1921 and 1924 before becoming an electrician.

He died in Spokane, Washington, where he had lived since 1932, according to a statement from Mr Harper.

Mr Babcock tried to enlist in the US military again in 1941 but failed when it was discovered he had never become a US citizen.

He was naturalised as a US citizen in 1946.

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Boston Globe John Babcock, 108; Canadas last known veteran of WWI - 19 hrs ago
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CNEWS Feds to honour late WWI vet - 26 hrs ago Soldier killed on 27th birthday is named - 27 hrs ago
Mail Online UK Just two men in the world left alive who served in WWI after veteran's death aged 109 - 32 hrs ago

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