Page last updated at 12:39 GMT, Thursday, 6 November 2008

Obituary: Syd Lucas

Syd Lucas
Mr Lucas served in two world wars but missed seeing action
Sydney Lucas, who has died aged 108, was one of the few remaining soldiers of World War I to see the beginning of the 21st century.

Among the last batch of conscripts to be called up in 1918, the Armistice meant he escaped the horror of the trenches but went on to serve in WWII.

Sydney Maurice Lucas was born in Leicester on 21 September 1900 and, after leaving school, began his apprenticeship as a plumber.

He was just 17 when he was drafted into the Sherwood Foresters, in August 1918, and sent off to Yorkshire for his basic training.

At this time the Germans were still fighting doggedly on the Western Front and Syd and his fellow conscripts seemed destined for the trenches.

He had already had experience of the effects of war. Both his elder brothers had fought in France.

I was never in any fighting, but it wasn't my fault I wasn't
Sydney Lucas

"The youngest one of the two was blown up twice but he didn't get any bad injuries and the other one was shot through the finger, that's all he got. They were lucky."

Syd Lucas was trained in Derby and then sent to Catterick in Yorkshire but, when the war ended in November he was sent home before he had to leave for France.

In 1928 he emigrated to Australia in search of a better life.

In June 1940 he volunteered for the Australian army and was posted to a machine gun company.

He sailed to Palestine where Australian forces were being prepared to travel to Greece after its invasion by German and Italian troops.

But he was again destined not to see active service after an attack of appendicitis prevented him travelling with his battalion, which left without him in April 1941.

Syd Lucas
He led the annual Anzac Day parade in his adopted town

He returned to Australia on board the liner Queen Mary, as part of a detail guarding Italian and German prisoners of war and was discharged from the army in November 1941, on the grounds of ill health.

"They reckoned I was not fit enough, so they brought me home. I was never in any fighting, but it wasn't my fault I wasn't."

After returning to Australia, he worked at an aircraft factory before resuming his pre-war occupation as a plumber.

For many years he led the local Anzac Day parade in his home town on the Mornington Peninsula near Melbourne. He attributed his long life to a moderate consumption of alcohol.

"My doctor used to say that if you have two whiskies a day, it won't hurt you. He used to call in and bring the bottle."

Syd Lucas was one of the last links with a conflict that, for many, has become part of history.

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World War I veteran dies aged 108
06 Nov 08 |  Leicestershire


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