ONE OF LAST FIVE FRENCH WWI VETERANS DIES AT 111

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One of last five French WWI veterans dies at 111

DRAGUIGNAN , France, Nov 10, 2006 (AFP) - Maurice Floquet, one of France's last five surviving servicemen from World War I, died overnight at the age of 111, one day before Armistice Day, the ministry of defense said.

Floquet, who enlisted in the infantry at the outbreak of the war in 1914 and was badly wounded the following year, died at the house in southern France where he was looked after by his two daughters.

He was the oldest of the surviving "poilus" -- as French veterans of the war are known.

On Saturday President Jacques Chirac is to lead the traditional ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in central Paris to mark the anniversary of the end of the Great War on November 11, 1918.

For the first time since 2003 the ceremony will be attended by a "poilu" -- Rene Riffaud, who at 107 is the youngest of the remaining four.

Last year 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.

Floquet was born in December 1894 and joined up in September 1914. He fought in the first battles of the Somme and in September 1915 on the Marne front he received serious head wounds from a grenade.

Invalided out, he spent the end of the war working in an armaments factory. After the war he ran a garage until his retirement in 1952.

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 Compiegne forest clearing where the armistice was signed.
 

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