First World War veteran dies at 108
By Richard Alleyne
One of Britain's last First World War veterans has died aged 108. The death on Saturday of George Rice, a machinegunner who served on the Western Front, means there are just seven of the 5.4 million Britons who fought in the Great War still alive.
Mr Rice, who lived his last few years in Kings Heath, Birmingham, enlisted at the age of 17 and served originally with the Durham Light Infantry before being attached to the Duke of Wellington regiment. In one skirmish alone he killed eight Germans with a burst of machinegun fire.
Despite being a religious man, he always said he had no regrets. "It was just my job as a soldier," he once said. "I don't know what you felt. You were there to fight the enemy. Feelings didn't come into it in that sense, frightening or otherwise."
Mr Rice was called up for front-line duties in 1917 and taught how to use a Lewis gun, a light machinegun that could fire 500-600 rounds per minute.
In one brutal encounter he shot eight Germans charging at his line with fixed bayonets. "I kept the gun steady, pressed the trigger and kept it on. The Germans ran on to my bullets. They were too near.
''They ran on as I kept on firing … I shot them all. They were dead men," he later recalled.
After the war, he moved to Birmingham to work for Austin Rover at Longbridge. He married in May 1928 and he and his wife, Elsie had four sons. Mrs Rice died in 1997 at the age of 93.
Mr Rice worked on the manufacture of military aircraft in Coventry during the Second World War and later in the motor industry.
He was awarded the Legion D'Honneur, France's highest decoration, to mark the 80th anniversary of the Armistice in 1998.