Sunday, August 09, 2009
R.I.P. Harry Patch
The last surviving veteran of trench warfare in WW I, Private Harry Patch, has died at 111 years old.
Wounded twice, and decorated for his service, Patch fought at the Somme and Passchendaele, battles where between 500,000 and 600,000 soldiers were killed. The war ended for him on September 22, 1917, when, already injured, a shell exploded next to his trench, killing three of his best friends and wounding another. From then on, he always referred to Sept 22 as his "personal Remembrance Day".
For most of his life, Patch never discussed his war service until, in the late 90's, it became apparent that he was one of the few surviving combattants. At that point, he became a vocal spokesman for peace, calling war "organized slaughter", and encouraging Remembrance Day ceremonies to honour the dead from both sides of the conflict.
In 2002, he attended ceremonies for the German dead, and laid a wreath to honour the men he had fought against.
"War is not worth it," he said. "Not one single life is worth it. It is the most horrible, awful, hellish thing mankind can do."