“WAR isn’t worth one life,” Harry Patch – the man nicknamed “the last fighting Tommy” – said before his death on July 25, 2009.
Mr Patch, who was the last British
First World War soldier to pass away, became a symbol of dignity and
unswerving honesty about the horrors of the trenches.
The veteran, of Combe Down, a small village near Bath, was born on 17 June, 1898 – while Queen Victoria was still on the throne.
was conscripted into the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry in 1917 and
trained as a machine gunner – having left school at the age of 13 to
train as a plumber.
Despite not breaking his silence about the
Great War until after his 100th birthday, Mr Patch became famous for the
unerring humanism of his words.
recorded excerpts of his memoirs, he said: “I had no inclination to
fight anybody. I mean why should I go out and kill somebody who I never
knew? For what reason?”
Mr Patch found himself en route to Reims on his 19th birthday and installed in the trenches in July, 1917.
He arrived in time to witness the Third Battle of Ypres, also known as the mud-soaked offensive, Passchendale.
brother had been injured in Mons while serving with the Royal Engineers
and Mr Patch said he knew he did not want to take to the deep trenches,
surrounded by filth and exploding shells.
He said: “I think every
man who went on the front line at some time or another was scared. And
if any man tells you he wasn’t scared then he’s a damn liar.
it came to the point where we went into action I was scared stiff
because I thought the first time I go over the top – you don’t know how
much longer you are going to live.”
Questioning the “war to end all wars”, he said before his death: “It
wasn’t worth it. No war is worth it. No war is worth the loss of a
couple of lives let alone thousands.”
After the conflict he
returned to plumbing and raised his family in the West Country. When he
died in his sleep at a nursing home in Wells, Somerset he was Britain’s
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