A living unknown soldier has emerged from the mists of time. Rene Riffaud is the last and the youngest of the so-called “lost patrol” of five surviving French veterans from World War One. The 107-year-old says he was so horrified by his experiences of the trenches that he refused to sign up as an official veteran. But he “re-enlisted” after his family insisted, in order to line-up with other comrades during today’s Armistice ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe.
However, France’s oldest Great War veteran has not been able to take part. Maurice Floquet died at the age of 111 on the eve of Remembrance Day. Floquet was one of more than eight million poilus or “hairy ones” – the French affectionate nickname for the men mobilised to fight in the 1914-1918 war. He was awarded France’s highest medal, la Legion d’Honneur in 1995.