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Page 3 Profile: Harry Patch, war hero


Harry Patch passed away in 2009 didn’t he?

Yes he did, Henry John Patch, or “Harry” to millions of Britons, the longest surviving combat veteran of the First World War, died in 2009. A supercentenarian, Patch lived to 111 years and 38 days, and was the oldest man in Europe, as well as the third oldest man in the world at the time of his death.

Wow that’s pretty amazing, the anniversary of the start of the First World War is coming up isn’t it?

Right again. 2014 will see the First World War centenary, for which there is a whole host of commemorative events and undertakings planned to remember the 700,000 UK service personnel who lost their lives. One of the first is an animated portrait of Harry Patch commissioned by the Not Forgotten Association unveiled this week.

Tell me more…

The work was created by artist David Tucker. Starting life as an oil painting based on an photo of Patch taken by Gulf War veteran turned photographer Giles Price, the portrait was then digitally manipulated. The final piece is a time lapse animation of the painting being built up by each of the 2,671 individual brush strokes. The imagery has then been overlaid with recordings of Patch’s memoirs and music by Radiohead.

What’s Patch saying in the work?

The audio is of Patch recalling the chilling moment he was injured by a shell which killed three friends and comrades at the Battle of Passchendaele in September 1917, just over a year before armistice. The memoirs are interjected with Radiohead’s soundtrack - Harry Patch (In memory of) - a song they wrote inspired by Patch and recorded a few weeks before he died.

So will any survivors see the centenary?

No, unfortunately not. The last surviving First World War veteran, Florence Green, a British woman who served in the Women’s Royal Air Force passed away in 2012. The war’s last surviving seaman, Claude Choules, another Briton, died in 2011.