Phil Raschke (L) holds a tin cup from the Ypres, Belgium WW I Museum while John Babcock (R) displays a WW I photo of himself. At 107, Babcock still sports a full head of hair. On the table is a “red poppy” remembrance cross from the grave of Pvt. G. L. Price, Canadian forces. Price was the last Canadian soldier killed in World War I. He died in action on November 11, 1918 and is buried in St. Symphorien military cemetery, Belgium.
Submitted by Phil Raschke
Veterans Day is November 11 and at age 107, John Babcock of Spokane, WA has the honor to be the last surviving veteran of the Canadian forces of World War I.
During WW I, Canadian forces numbered nearly 620,000 and suffered over 214,000 casualties. Today, only John Babcock still remains standing.
At 107, however, Babcock is showing no signs of slowing down.
Sure he needs a walker to get around, but he still enjoys going out to lunch with friends, chatting with visitors and receiving letters from Queens and Prime Ministers.
Back in 1916, Babcock was able to enter the military by looking older than his real age of 15. He trained with the 146th Overseas Battalion in Nova Scotia and then convoyed through U-Boat infested waters to England.
In England, Babcock’s real age was discovered and he was held back from duty in France. The war ended in November, 1918 and he was shipped back home to Canada.
Following his discharge on January 11, 1919, Babcock began looking for work. In early 1921, he rejoined the military, this time the American army with duty at Camp Lewis, WA.
Assigned duties as a Stable Sergeant, Babcock vividly remembers his unit road marching in columns of four from Camp Lewis to Camp Vancouver, WA. Supplies for the march were carried on pack mules and Babcock’s job was to ride on horseback and keep the mules from straying off the march route.
While at Camp Vancouver nights were pretty much free, so Babcock would get a streetcar and dance ticket from the Post Exchange and hop over to the Broadway Dance Hall in Portland, OR. He learned to dance at the Broadway because that was the only way to meet the young ladies.
Babcock left the American Army in 1924. He landed an electrical wiring job with a California power company. The company eventually offered him a position in Spokane. In Spokane, Babcock met his wife, Dorothy, who is a retired registered nurse.
Dorothy proudly noted that in honor of John’s 107th birthday last July, “Queen Elisabeth of England sent John a letter of congratulations”. Additionally, Dorothy said,”Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, recently sent John a commemorative World War I necktie covered with the famous “Red Poppies” of WW I fame.”
All together, more than 41 million served in “The Great War” as it was called back then. This coming November 11 will mark the 89th Anniversary of the signing of the 1918 Armistice. In America, the day is called Veterans Day. In Canada, it is called Remembrance Day.
As this special day approaches, Lance Corporal John Henry Foster Babcock, age 107, Canadian forces WW I, is truly “The Last Man Standing.”
Author’s Note: In America, there are currently three World War I survivors out of 4.5 million who served. Germany has two WW I veterans. England has three veterans to include one Royal Navy veteran who is the last survivor of the famous Battle of Jutland. France has four surviving veterans, Australia has three, Italy has four, Poland and Turkey have one each.
Number of Russian and other verified survivors is not currently known to this writer.
Phil Raschke (L) and John Babcock (R) hold photo of Babcock’s unit, “D” Company, 146th Overseas Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force. Photo was taken on Sept. 5, 1916 at Camp Valcartier near Quebec while unit was enroute to Nova Scotia. On the table is a “red poppy” remembrance cross from the grave of Pvt. G. L. Price, Canadian forces. Price was the last Canadian soldier killed in World War I. He died in action on November 11, 1918 and is buried in St. Symphorien military cemetery, Belgium.