Lest we forget: Country’s last World War Two veteran to be laid to rest Friday

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Morrison Appleton (second from left) with members of the country’s Ex-Servicemen’s Association Pagget Messiah (left), Johnson Browne (second from right) and Keith Eastmond (Photo taken in 2018 by Gemma Handy)
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By Gemma Handy

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The last known Antiguan and Barbudan to have served in the Second World War is to be laid to rest on Friday.

Morrison Appleton was one of many men and women from the Caribbean to voluntarily enlist for the 1939-1945 conflict, which remains the biggest and bloodiest war in history.

Appleton died on August 19, at the age of 95.

Although he never saw the battlefield, he joined the Caribbean Regiment – a branch of the British Army – as part of the war effort and underwent training in St Kitts before taking part in general army duties across the region.

Appleton’s funeral will take place tomorrow at Ebenezer Methodist Church at 10am.

His grandson Vaughn Parker told Observer that his grandfather’s military training was evident in his meticulous punctuality.

“He was always on time. That was the first thing I observed from a young boy watching him move; you never had to wait for him,” Parker smiled.

“Before I knew he was in the military I would wonder why he was always early. He would always wake up at a particular time, he had a particular route that he walked.”

And, despite signing up for a role in the war knowing it could result in deadly combat, Appleton by nature avoided conflict with others.

“He was very easy to get along with; he never liked confrontations,” Parker explained.

He described Appleton as an ardent horse racing fan in his younger years. Born in Bethesda but raised in St John’s, Appleton would regularly walk from town to the Cassada Gardens race track.

Parker said his grandfather was also a music lover with a vast collection of records. He added that October 11 – which would have been Appleton’s 96th birthday – would be the first that Appleton would not be “busting a move” to his favourite tunes.

After leaving the military, Appleton later worked as a security guard. His last position was at the Mill Reef Club – one he held until into his 80s.

He was also a keen cook. His daughter Maxine Greenaway told Observer his favourite dishes to create were “bull foot soup, banana fitters, and rice porridge which had to contain coconut”.

She added that her father would be remembered as a “very, very nice person”.

Appleton never forgot his time in the military and was an active member of the country’s Ex-Servicemen’s Association.

Its chairman Pagget Messiah said, “Morrison came from a humble background and saw the need for servicemen from less developed areas of the world to fight on behalf of the mother country to protect, going forward, the freedom of people like me who came later.”

Appleton himself told media in 2018 that with Antigua being under British rule at the time, he felt British. “We wanted to help what we thought of as our country,” he recalled.

The Ex-Servicemen’s Association’s President Johnson Browne described Appleton as “very jovial” and “full of life up to the end”.

“He was most proud of serving in the war and would always talk about serving king and country. He often spoke about his time training in St Kitts,” he said.

Browne recalled that Appleton loved to meet members of international organisations who would occasionally visit the country to meet with veterans.

“It was always an exciting moment for him when they would visit. He would regale them with his stories,” he said.

“One phrase he would always say was – ‘old soldiers never die; they just fade away’.”

Members of the Ex-Servicemen’s Association will be in attendance at Friday’s funeral.

As Appleton’s coffin is lowered into the ground, they will recite the much-loved Robert Laurence Binyon poem, For The Fallen, Browne said.

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them,” Browne quoted.

Appleton will be buried at the cemetery in his home village of Bethesda.

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