Harry Patch, last of the huge crowd

Article by Richard Graham

Harry Patch at the Menin Gate, 2007 (Photo Courtesy of SalientPoints)

Harry Patch at the Menin Gate, 2007 (Photo Courtesy of SalientPoints)

The writer J B Priestley (1894-1984) volunteered for the army in September 1914, joining The Duke of Wellington’s Regiment (West Riding). During his service he was both wounded and gassed and he was finally discharged in March 1919 as a subaltern in The Devonshire Regiment. Of the war he wrote ‘…I believe that in the end it was chiefly won on the ground by a huge crowd of young Britons who never wanted to be soldiers, hooted at all traditions of military glory, but went on and on, when the American forces were still not fully deployed and the French were fading out, with courage and endurance and tenacity we should remember with pride.’ Margin Released (1964)

Such a man was Harry Patch, the last British soldier to have seen action in the trenches of the First World war who died at the weekend. His portrait is currently found on the London Underground advertising the BP Award, and his regiment, the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, is commemorated on a war memorial at Bodmin. Following Harry’s death Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced plans for a memorial service, to take place later this year, to commemorate the generation that fought and died in the Great War.

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