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At 106, the secret to long life is: Don’t die

2nd March 2007, 6:15 WST

At 106 , Claude Choules still enjoys daily workouts, can hold his own on the dance floor and is happy to pass on the secret of his longevity.
  
“Don’t die,” he suggested, pointing to a keen sense of humour.
  
Possibly WA’s oldest person, Mr Choules also “stayed young” by surrounding himself with youngsters — those being his daughters Daphne, 79, Anne, 77, and son Adrian 72, 11 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren — staying off the booze and laughing.
  
“Laughing is much easier than crying,” he said.
  
An explosives expert during a 41-year naval career that spanned two world wars he has been blessed with good health.
  
Although now a little hard of hearing and sight, he walks daily and occasionally hits the dance floor for a jive at the Gracewood Hostel in Salter Point where he has lived for four years.
  
As a fresh-faced 14-year-old from Wyre Piddle near Birmingham in England, he fudged his age to join the Royal Navy, serving two years in the North Sea until the end of the war.

He stayed in the service after the war, became a torpedo instructor and in 1926, was seconded to the Australian navy where he served until 1956.
  
As the Japanese threat loomed, he got the task of setting the explosives to blow up Fremantle harbour and searching for enemy mines.
  
“We put depth charges in each ship so if the Japanese looked like coming in we would blow the ship up so it was of no use to them,” he said.
  
He also set the explosives to break up and clear the debris of Catalina flying boats bombed by Japanese aircraft in Broome.
  
After the war, he taught the art of demolition by explosion.
  
“If they wanted a hill or building removed, I would demolish it with explosives, leaving a big hole,” he said.
  
One of only a handful of surviving British WWI veterans, Mr Choules featured with fellow British veteran, Sandy Young, in a BBC documentary two years ago.
  
Mr Choules was married for 80 years to Ethel, a Scottish children’s nurse, who died last year, aged 98.
  
The couple met on the way to Australia in 1926.
  
He plans to celebrate his latest birthday which he calls “just another year” at a party for family and friends.

ALISON BATCHELER