One of last six French WWI veterans dies at 105

26th September 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Sept 26, 2006 (AFP) - François Jaffré, one of France's last six surviving servicemen from World War I, has died at the age of 105, the National Office of Veterans' Affairs (ONAC) said Tuesday.

PARIS, Sept 26, 2006 (AFP) - François Jaffré, one of France's last six surviving servicemen from World War I, has died at the age of 105, the National Office of Veterans' Affairs (ONAC) said Tuesday.

Born in May 1901 in Brittany, Jaffré joined the French navy in 1917 and served as a radio-operator on a destroyer in the Atlantic. He died last Friday in an old people's home near Paris.

Jaffre was the youngest of the surviving 'poilus' — as French World War I veterans are known (though originally the term only referred to infantrymen who fought in the trenches). The oldest, Maurice Floquet, is 111 and the youngest, Réné Riffaud, is 107.

Last year President Jacques Chirac promised that the last World War I veteran to die will receive a state funeral. Some 8.5 million French soldiers fought in the 1914-1918 conflict of whom some 1.38 million died in action.

According to an obituary in La Croix newspaper, Jaffré went to naval training school in 1916 at the age of 15 and joined up in September of the following year.

He spent most of his war service in trans-Atlantic convoys protecting American troop ships heading for France from German submarine attack.

After the war he became an accountant and then a police investigator. In World War II he was imprisoned as a member of the resistance, and afterwards joined France's national counter-intelligence agency.

The ONAC lost trace of Jaffré in the 1990s, and it was only this year that officials discovered he was still alive. Riffaud had also disappeared from the records because he had failed to request a veteran's identity card.

"He did not like to put his war experience out on display. He didn't go to the former servicemen's meetings for example," said Jaffré's daughter Monique in La Croix. "It was hard to get him to talk of his experiences."

Eight British servicemen from the Great War are alive today, one of whom attended the 90th anniversary commemoration of the battle of the Somme in July. The Germans have no records.

Details of the state homage to the last 'poilu' have yet to be decided. There are calls for him to be buried at the Invalides military hospice in Paris, at the battlefield memorial in Verdun, or in the Compiègne forest clearing where the armistice was signed on November 11, 1918.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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