Obituary: Harry Patch

Final witness to horror of the trenches

Harry Patch, the last British soldier to have fought in the trenches of the First World War, was staunchly anti-war.

Mr Patch was a machine-gunner in the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry and fought during the Battle of Passchendaele, in Ypres, which claimed the lives of more than 70,000 soldiers.

He served in the trenches as a private from June to September 1917.

Born on 17 June 1898, Mr Patch grew up in Coombe Down, near Bath, and left school at the age of 15 to train as a plumber.

He was 16 when war broke out and reached 18 as conscription was being introduced and after six months training he was sent to the frontline.

He was the number two in the Lewis gun team and his role was to carry and assemble the spare parts for the machine gun and ensure it worked.

The five gunners made a pact not to kill an enemy soldier if they could help it but they would instead aim for the legs.

On 22 September 1917 a shell attack exploded above Mr Patch's head killing three of his comrades.

Mr Patch was hit by shrapnel in the lower abdomen but survived.

During his recovery in Britain, he met his first wife, Ada, in 1918.

They were married for almost 60 years and had two sons, Dennis and Roy, both of whom Harry has outlived.

Too old to fight in the Second World War Mr Patch became a maintenance manager at a US army camp in Somerset and joined the Auxiliary Fire Service in Bath.

After the war he went back to plumbing and retired in 1963.

Following Ada's death in 1976, at 81 Mr Patch married his second wife, Jean, who died five years ago.

His third partner Doris, who lived in the same retirement home, died last year.

It was only on his 100th birthday that Mr Patch first came to the spotlight as one of the last veterans of the First World War, when for the first time reporters and television crews visited his care home in Wells, Somerset.

His autobiography, The Last Fighting Tommy, written with Richard van Emden, was published in 2007.

As well as launching poppy appeals, he became an agony uncle columnist for lads magazine FHM, had his portrait painted by artist and former England wicket keeper, Jack Russell, and had a special edition cider named after him.

In 1999 Mr Patch received the Legion D'Honneur medal awarded by the French government to 350 surviving First World War veterans who fought on the Western Front, dedicating it to his three fallen comrades.

At the age of 105 Mr Patch re-visited the Ypres battle field and in 2004 he returned for a BBC series to meet a German veteran Charles Kuentz.

He also visited the British and German cemeteries, placing a wreath of poppies on one of the German graves.

In February this year Poet Laureate Andrew Motion was commissioned to write a poem in Mr Patch's honour, entitled "The Five Acts of Harry Patch".

In September 2008 he made his last trip to Langemark for the unveiling of a memorial.

Mr Patch believes "war is organised murder" and said: "It was not worth it, it was not worth one let alone all the millions.

"It's important that we remember the war dead on both sides of the line - the Germans suffered the same as we did."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Taste the difference: Nell Frizzell tucks into a fry-up in Jesse's cafe in east London
food + drinkHow a bike accident left one woman living in a distorted world in which spices smell of old socks and muesli tastes like pork fat
Sport
Luke Shaw’s performance in the derby will be key to how his Manchester United side get on
footballIt's not a game to lose, writes Paul Scholes
Arts and Entertainment
Don’t send in the clowns: masks and make-up conceal true facial expressions, thwarting our instinct to read people’s minds through their faces, as seen in ‘It’
filmThis Halloween, we ask what makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?
News
peopleFarage challenges 'liberally biased' comedians to 'call him a narcissist'
Arts and Entertainment
Liam and Zayn of One Direction play with a chimpanzee on the set of their new video for 'Steal My Girl'
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Teaching Assistant for Year 4

£50 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: A Teaching Assistant is requ...

Nursery Teacher in Sherwood

£100 - £145 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: Teaching job available wor...

Senior IP Opportunity at Major Firm

vary Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - AN OPENING AT A VERY HIGH Q...

Nursery Manager

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Nursery Manager Long term Ran...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes