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Last Updated: Friday, 20 May, 2005, 11:24 GMT 12:24 UK
Oldest Great War cavalryman dies
Albert Marshall
Mr Marshall was believed to be the second oldest man in England
The last surviving British cavalryman from the First World War has died at the age of 108.

But the wartime exploits of Albert Marshall, born at Elmstead Market, Essex, only came to light after his 100th birthday.

He died in his sleep on Monday at his home in Ashtead, Surrey, from pneumonia and old age.

In 1998, he was awarded the Legion d'Honneur, France's highest honour, in recognition of his gallantry.

Mr Marshall was believed to be the second oldest man in England.

His son, John Marshall, 73, said he rarely spoke about the war and his deeds only became public when he was celebrating his 100th birthday.

"It was only when he joined the veterans' association and all the media attention he received after his 100th birthday that we learnt about what he did," he said.

Mr Marshall, known as Smiler, was born on March 15, 1897, the year of Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee.

World War One cavalry
The young men that joined up didn't think they were being brave. The old Victorian values just kicked in
Graham Stark

He had a life-long passion for working with horses and in January 1915, aged 17, joined the Essex Yeomanry.

His carer, Graham Stark, a volunteer from the World War One Veterans' Association, said: "The young men that joined up didn't think they were being brave.

"The old Victorian values just kicked in. People didn't put themselves first - it was a duty. We consider them heroes but they wouldn't consider themselves in that way."

Volunteered again

The soldier took part in his first major battle during the autumn of 1915 at Loos in northern France.

Mr Stark said the old soldier told him he worked in small mounted units of four.

One man would hold the reins of the other three horses while his comrades fought the enemy on foot.

While serving in Flanders he was shot through the hand and spent 1917 convalescing in a Newcastle hospital but volunteered to return to the front and was back in position by spring 1918, now with the Machine Gun Corps.

After the Armistice he volunteered to serve again, this time in the growing Anglo-Irish conflict.

He was demobbed in 1921 and married his childhood sweetheart, Florence. After working for the Essex and Suffolk hunt he later became a country estate worker in Surrey.


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