At 108, Florence Green is Britain's oldest war vet

A WEST Norfolk woman's amazing longevity has gained her a unique double distinction.

108-year-old Florence Green is believed to be the world's last surviving female veteran of the First World War after serving in the Women's Royal Air Force during the conflict.

Mrs Green, of North Lynn, is also the only known First World War veteran of either sex still living in the UK.

For good measure, she is also West Norfolk's oldest resident, the second oldest person in Norfolk and one of the 30 oldest people in Britain.

Her achievement came to light after her 108th birthday was reported in the Lynn News last February.

It was seen by Andrew Holmes, a British correspondent for the US-based Gerontology Research Group, which validates the ages of people over 110. He also keeps track of British people over the age of 107.

Mr Holmes said: "I located a service record on the National Archives for Florence Beatrice Patterson (her maiden name) showing that she joined up in September, 1918, before the end of the war, confirming her as a veteran."

It was originally thought that British-born Gladys Powers, who died in Canada in 2008, was the last female veteran.

"Like Florence, she too worked as a waitress in the WRAF," said Mr Holmes.

Londoner Ivy Campany, who died last year, served in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps in the First World War.

They were among thousands of women who "did their bit" between 1914 and 1918 - and Mrs Green has survived them all.

After enlisting in 1918, she recalls working in the officers' mess at Marham and was also based at Narborough airfield. She said: "I enjoyed it. There were plenty of people there and they were very good company. It was lovely."

Unaware of her special status until now, she said: "I am proud."

Mrs Green was born in London but Lynn has been her home for about 90 years. She lives with her daughter, May, and has two other children, June, who lives in Oundle, and Bob, who lives in Cumbria. She has four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Now her fame has even reached the US. This week, she received a letter from a student in Ohio asking for her autograph to add to those he has collected from veterans around the world.

Explaining the background to Mrs Green's veteran standing, Mr Holmes said: "It's a common misconception that a veteran must be someone who saw action. A veteran is someone who served in one of the armed forces, regardless of their role - a medic, an ambulance driver or a waitress still count."

Mr Holmes said only three other surviving veterans of the First World War were previously thought to exist.They are: British-born sailor Claude Choules, who now lives in Australia; Canadian John Babcock, who was in army training when the war ended; and US Army ambulance driver Frank Buckles.

*Harry Patch, of Somerset, who survived the trenches of the Western Front to die last year aged 111, was known as "The Last Tommy."

Mr Holmes stressed that he did not want to detract from the legacies of Harry Patch and Battle of Jutland survivor Henry Allingham, who also died last year.

"Obviously the last surviving veterans of any war are likely to be the youngest and therefore would not have served long. The other three remaining veterans are all of a similar age and also joined up towards the end of the war," he said.

Florence Green (108), with her copy of The Great Government Aerodrome, an account of Narborough air base during the First World War.

Picture: ALAN MILLER MLNF10AM01117 www.photostoday.co.uk

To order, please ring 01553 817335.

She has four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Now her fame has even reached the US. This week, she received a letter from a student in Ohio asking for her autograph to add to those he has collected from veterans around the world.

Explaining the background to Mrs Green's veteran standing, Mr Holmes said: "It's a common misconception that a veteran must be someone who saw action. A veteran is someone who served in one of the armed forces, regardless of their role - a medic, an ambulance driver or a waitress still count."

Mr Holmes said only three other surviving veterans of the First World War were previously thought to exist. They are: British-born sailor Claude Choules, who now lives in Australia; Canadian John Babcock, who was in army training when the war ended; and US Army ambulance driver Frank Buckles.

Harry Patch, of Somerset, who survived the trenches of the Western Front to die last year aged 111, was known as "The Last Tommy."

Mr Holmes stressed that he did not want to detract from the legacies of Harry Patch and Battle of Jutland survivor Henry Allingham, 113, who also died last year. "Obviously the last surviving veterans of any war are likely to be the youngest and therefore would not have served long. The other three remaining veterans are all of a similar age and also joined up towards the end of the war," he said.