Buckles Honored Across Seas

Even though certain U.S. political leaders didn’t appreciate or honor the importance of West Virginian Frank Buckles’ service to our country and the world, it’s good to know, at least, that some folks “across the pond” understand and recognize the significance of the death of the last surviving American veteran of World War I.

Readers will recall that Buckles, a resident of Charles Town in the Eastern Panhandle, died at age 110 on Sunday, Feb. 27.

Earlier this month, Dr. Mary-Bess Halford of Bethany received a newspaper clipping sent by her relative, Elizabeth Crawley, of Winchester, England. The clipping from the Thursday, March 24, edition of the Hampshire Chronicle newspaper contained a half-page article under the headline of “Hampshire Loses Last Link to Great War” and telling of Buckles’ death.

The article stated, “Hampshire’s last link with soldiers from the Great War has finally been broken. Half a world away and 93 years after the guns fell silent, Frank Buckles, aged 110, died on February 27. He was the only surviving American veteran left from the ‘War to End All Wars.’

“He was also the last of hundreds of thousands of men who had served in uniform in Hampshire in the conflict that lasted from 1914 to 1918.”

The article continued, “After America entered the war in 1917, Frank was so determined to enlist that he lied about his age to join the U.S. Army and sailed to England in December 1917 on the Cunarder, Carpathia.

“He was stationed near Winchester in early 1918 for several months, before transferring to France via Southampton Docks. In England, he served as an ambulance driver based at Camp Hospital 35, a temporary base at Winnall Down.”

The writer explained, “The hospital and rest camp was quickly set up in 1917 and used first by the British and then American soldiers wounded in the horrific trench warfare of the Western Front.”

The article included a brief biography of Buckles, and one paragraph in particular caught Crawley’s attention because of its reference to West Virginia, where her relatives now reside. The article noted that, later in life, “He (Buckles) was captured and interned by the Japanese in World War II. He married in 1946 and farmed cattle in West Virginia, maintaining involvement in the farm when past 100.”

The feature article, written by Andrew Napier, was illustrated with eight photographs provided by Susan Strange. The photographs included two photos of Buckles, one showing him in his U.S. Army uniform at age 17, and the other of him at age 98 when he was awarded the Legion of Honour by Jacques Chirac, president of France.

The other six photos were vintage shots of scenes in England’s Hampshire County during World War I. One photo showed a British band leading newly-arrived U.S. troops down a street in Winchester, while another depicted work that was under way to build a platform for troops on the main Winchester railway line. One photo showed a group of U.S., British and Australian soldiers chatting in a field. Other photos were from the Army hospital and rest camp, off-duty soldiers walking along a road outside the camp at Winnall and a shot inside the hospital of the U.S. Army camp at Winnall Down.

The Hampshire Chronicle article concluded by noting that the last British veterans of World War I, Harry Patch and Henry Allingham, both died in 2009.

Linda Comins can be reached via e-mail at: Comins@news-register.net