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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 November, 2003, 10:08 GMT
Hero of the trenches is alive
James Lovell
James Lovell with his Military Medal

The last living British World War I soldier decorated for bravery shocked a veterans' association by re-emerging six years after they recorded him as dead.

Lance Corporal James Lovell, 104, from Bristol, was assumed to have died by the World War I Veterans' Association after a newsletter was sent back to them marked "return to sender".

But the record was set straight after Denis Goodwin, the organisation's founder, saw the great, great grandfather celebrating yet another birthday in a newspaper article.

The association invited him to attend the Remembrance Sunday parade at the Cenotaph in London this weekend but he is too frail to make the trip.

Mr Lovell said: "I wasn't even aware that I was missing from their list. I am very surprised because I have been here all along."

Historic

The lance corporal has been confirmed as the last remaining veteran - out of 27 - who was decorated for bravery with the Military Medal.

The medal was awarded to non-commissioned officers for acts of bravery, with 115,600 awarded between 1914-18.

Mr Lovell, a retired blacksmith, was given his for protecting a lieutenant from enemy fire by flanking him as he travelled along battlefield lines at the Somme to his base.

He signed up in 1915, lying about his age, to enter the 8th Royal Berkshire Regiment and join his two older brothers in battle.

"I lost a lot of friends. It was a massive waste of lives, a slaughter that should never have happened," he said.

Mr Lovell said when the war ended only 35 of his regiment had survived.

The war hero was presented with the Legion d'Honneur medal by the French Government in 1998.

As well as having five children, Mr Lovell has a total of nine grandchildren, seven great grandchildren and five great, great grandchildren.




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