It fills me with wonder that through an accident of history and maybe the genes that gave him such a long life Henry John “Harry” Patch (17 June 1898 – 25 July 2009) will always be remembered as the last fighting Tommy. The last combat soldier from the Great War or World War One who died aged 111 in 2009. It’s like a sliding door moment which led Harry to that place.
I was recently on a visit to the Somerset city of Wells which is where Harry Patch’s funeral was held. He was buried in Monkton Combe next to his brother and his parents. His memorial stone is outside Wells Museum. He was born in Combe Down near Bath. He believed that the commandment ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill‘ was one to obey and in a 2007 interview he spoke of a German soldier that he shot during his time in the trenches on the Western Front from 1916 to 1918. He said “I had about five seconds to make the decision. I brought him down, but I didn’t kill him…. Any one of them could have been me. Millions of men came to fight in this war and I find it incredible that I am the only one left”.
Seeing his memorial stone and reading about him brought tears to my eyes and a weird sense of pride. People like Harry should be an example to everyone and his memory of war ought to be a lesson to us all, but sadly it isn’t. He became a great man by accident and lived that role with grace. RIP Harry Patch, you will never be forgotten. This is a music blog so please enjoy Radiohead‘s tribute to Harry Patch and hear the man himself giving the spoken word part of the Imperial Vengeance track.