LONDON - Albert Marshall, believed to have been the last surviving British cavalryman to serve in World War I, has died. He was 108.
Albert Marshall, who was nicknamed "Smiler" by his fellow soldiers, died in his sleep Monday at his home in Ashtead, near London, his son, John, said Friday.
Marshall, then 17, lied about his age to join the army, and in later years recalled joining in cavalry charges with drawn swords.
He spoke of seeing a charge by troops from the Oxford and Bucks regiment, newly arrived from England. "They were very smart — new uniforms — and eager to get into the attack," Marshall said two years ago in an interview for the Royal British Legion's magazine.
At dawn, 800 charged over the top of the trenches into withering German fire.
"By about 8:30 we saw no more than seven or eight of them struggling back towards us. We couldn't believe our eyes. All those young men we had shared our breakfast with were dead."
"One of our officers went forward with a white flag and the Germans signaled that it was all right for us to come out and bury our dead. It was a terrible sight.
"We rolled them into shell holes and covered them best we could. As we tramped back, we were treading on them."
Marshall, who served with the Essex Yeomanry in Flanders, was shot in the hand and spent much of 1917 recovering in England, but returned to duty the following year with the Machine Gun Corps. He later received the French Legion of Honor
"We as a family never knew a thing about his war experiences. We knew he was in the First World War, obviously, but it was not a subject spoken about," John Marshall said.
"It was only when he joined the veterans' association and all the media attention he received after his 100th birthday that we learned about what he did."
Marshall is survived by his son and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.