The last surviving veteran of the First World War died last Saturday, just shy of her 111th birthday. Her name was Florence Green.
She joined the Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF) as a mess steward in September 1918, nine months after she turned 17 and two months before the end of the war. Mrs. Green’s status as a war veteran wasn’t even widely known until two years ago, not long after Harry Patch, the last surviving combat veteran, died at age 111. Here’s the BBC story from January 2010 on her claim to fame, then its obituary that appeared today.
Fiona Robinson, who blogs at Ghosts of 1914, framed the significance of Mrs. Green’s death better than I could:
…we have entered a new era. The experience of the Great War is no longer among the living but now lives in memory. It is an momentous thing for a war to pass fully from recall to record. It is important, in the face of such an inevitability, to preserve the human hold on history and to maintain our perspective on the events of the Great War such that we understand (or try to understand) what it meant to live through it–so that the nature and costs of such a conflict remain human-scaled, even at a vantage point of a hundred years away. I feel that it is only with such a perspective that the history of war can point to peace.