DURING the First World War, Nicholas Swarbrick crossed the Atlantic time and again at the mercy of German U-Boats.

As a radio operator he listened helplessly as British ships succumbed to the enemy. Yet undeterred he sailed from Blighty to Halifax in Nova Scotia, Montreal and New York, transporting horses, troops and supplies to aid the war effort.

He was the last remaining merchant sailor from the Great War but on February 2, at Grimsargh House Rest Home, near Longridge, aged 107, he died.

Growing up in Grimsargh, his mother died of consumption when he was just four.

At school Nicholas developed an interest in electrical and scientific matters and shortly before the outbreak of war took a Morse code course in Liverpool.

Just five days after obtaining his certificate of proficiency, he set sail from London in the "Westfalia" as a radio officer.

In a later crossing from New York, he heard the news of the German retreat which preceded the Armistice from the Eiffel Tower transmitter.

Nicholas remained in the Merchant Navy for 13 years, before the Great Depression when he switched to his father's farm business back in Grimsargh, where he stayed for the rest of his working life.

Today his nephew Rodney Swarbrick paid tribute to a "remarkable" man. He said: "He lived life to the full in spite of very difficult beginnings.

"He felt he was very fortunate to live in a century which he described as the best century ever because of the progress of man.

"When you went to talk to him you had to be absolutely up to speed with what was going on in the world. And he became more remarkable as he passed through his 80s, 90s and into his centenary years. His ability to express himself and his thirst for knowledge never left him. I think that's why he lived for so many years.

"Every day was a bonus. Every day there was something to learn and discuss."

In an interview last year to mark Armistice Day, he said he could recall the death of Queen Victoria and his memories of the war years.

He said: "I was the radio officer and could hear ships being sunk.

"I could hear the SOS messages from torpedoed ships, ships in distress and going down and hearing their death throes. It was pretty horrifying to hear what was happening on the airwaves.

"And the instructions we had was not to go to their aid, because you yourself then became a target for the sub.

"I always expected us to be next, I think we just got used to that fear."

Grimsargh House Rest Home, where he died, overlooks land which his father and he once farmed.

Team leader at the home, June Rickus, said: "He was a lovely gentleman who kept himself to himself.

"He was never any bother and even right at the end he wanted to do things for himself."

Nicholas remained teetotal and single all his life.

The veteran was to be cremated at Preston today.