SPOKANE, Wash. – The oldest Canadian veteran of World War I has died at the age of 109.

John Babcock died Thursday in Spokane, where he has lived since 1932, according to a statement from Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

”I was deeply saddened to learn today of the death of John Babcock, Canada’s last known First World War veteran,” Harper said. ”As a nation, we honor his service and mourn his passing.”

”John Babcock was Canada’s last living link to the Great War, which in so many ways marked our coming of age as a nation,” Harper said. He said 650,000 men and women served in the Canadian forces during WWI.

The U.S. has one surviving World War I veteran. Frank Woodruff Buckles turned 109 this month in West Virginia.

Babcock was born July 23, 1900, on an Ontario farm and enlisted with the Royal Canadian Regiment when he was just 15, lying about his age. Babcock trained with nearly 1,300 other underage soldiers in anticipation of crossing the English Channel and facing enemy fire, but the war ended before he could set foot in France.

Soon after the war, he moved to the United States, where he served in the U.S. Army and became a naturalized citizen.

Babcock attributed his longevity to the physical training he received from serving in two armies in his youth. He didn’t drink much and stopped smoking a long time ago.

He is survived by his second wife and has a son, a daughter and numerous grandchildren.

Babcock was born into a large family that scattered after his father died in a logging accident when the boy was 6.

According to an autobiography he wrote for his 100th birthday, he enlisted in the Canadian Army just after New Year’s Day in 1916.

While unloading military trucks in Halifax, Nova Scotia, he answered a call for volunteers to head to France.

But it was discovered in England that he was only 16, and he was assigned to the so-called ”Young Soldiers Battalion,” who were held out of battle. Babcock ended up in Wales in 1918, but the war ended and he shipped back to Canada.

Seeking work, he paid a $7 tax to enter the U.S., taking various jobs. He joined the U.S. Army in 1921, even though he was not a citizen.

It wasn’t until 1946 that he was naturalized.


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