Ex RN ship to be named after last WWI vet

The name of the very last World War One veteran, Claude Choules, is to live on in a RAN ship that has served two navies, just like him.

Mr Choules, who died in Western Australia on May 5 aged 110, was the last known veteran who saw active service in WW1.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced on Saturday the former United Kingdom Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel Largs Bay is to be commissioned as HMAS Choules.
Advertisement: Story continues below

Mr Choules served in the Royal Navy in WWI and moved to Australia as an instructor on loan and then transferred to the RAN.

He was a commissioning crew member of HMAS Canberra and served with the vessel until 1931, when he was discharged from the RAN before he rejoined as a torpedo and anti-submarine instructor in 1932.

As the acting torpedo officer at Fremantle, Mr Choules disposed of the first German mine to wash up on Australian soil during WWII, near Esperance, on WA's south coast.

He was also tasked with destroying harbour and oil storage tanks at the Fremantle port in the event of a Japanese invasion.

His service totalled 40 years.

Ms Gillard said naming the ship HMAS Choules recognised the service of a loyal and dedicated man in two different Navies over 40 years.

"Mr Choules and his generation made a tremendous sacrifice for our freedom that we will never forget," she said.

Defence Minister Stephen Smith said Mr Choules was proud of his naval service.

HMAS Choules is due to arrive in Australia in December for commissioning into the RAN.

"As with Mr Choules, HMAS Choules will serve Australia having completed service in the fleet of the Royal Navy," Mr Smith said.

The federal government announced it would purchase the landing ship dock from the UK in April this year.

The 16,000 tonne HMAS Choules was commissioned into service in 2006 and became surplus to UK requirements as a result of the British government's strategic defence review.

Its flight deck has room for two large helicopters and can also carry around 150 light trucks and 350 troops.

It was used to provide humanitarian relief as part of the international response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

The vessel was acquired for about $100 million and is expected to be operational in early 2012 while Australia awaits the completion of its own ship landing docks in Spain.