2012-02-08

Last WWI veteran dies at 110

BY MARGALIT FOX New York Times News Service

Florence Green, who was believed to have been the last living veteran of World War I, died in England on Saturday, two weeks shy of her 111th birthday.

Green, under her maiden name, Florence Patterson, joined the Britain’s Royal Air Force shortly before war’s end and worked in an officer’s mess on the homefront. Her service was officially recognized only in 2010, after a researcher unearthed her records in Britain’s National Archives.

With the death in May of Claude Stanley Choules, an Englishman who served aboard a Royal Navy battleship, Green became the last known person, male or female, to have served in the war on either side.

Her death, at a nursing home in King’s Lynn, in eastern England, was announced on the website of the Order of the First World War, an organization based in Florida that keeps track of veterans.

The daughter of Frederick Patterson and the former Sarah Neal, Florence Beatrice Patterson was born in London on Feb. 19, 1901, and moved to King’s Lynn as child.

In September 1918, two months before the war ended, Florence, then 17, joined the Women’s Royal Air Force. An auxiliary branch of the RAF, it had been created not long before to help free men for combat duty by recruiting women to work as mechanics and drivers and in other noncombat jobs.

Made a steward in the officers’ mess, she was assigned first to the Narborough Aerodrome and later to the RAF base at Marham, both in England’s Norfolk region.

She served the officers meals and tea, and in free moments she would roam the base, admiring the men.

“I met dozens of pilots and would go on dates,” Green told The Daily Mail in 2010.

But when they offered to take her aloft in their craft — Sopwith Camels and other biplanes — she demurred. She was afraid to fly.

Green, who remained in the Women’s RAF until July 1919, married Walter Green in 1920. Walter Green, a railway porter, died in the 1970s.

Florence Green’s wartime experience remained unsung until 2009, when an English newspaper, The Lynn News and Advertiser, wrote about her 108th birthday.

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