Last Word War I trenches veteran dies

Joe Sinclair,Press Association
Sunday 23 October 2011 07:49

Harry Patch, the last British survivor of World War I to fight in the trenches, died today.

Harry Patch passed away this morning in Fletcher House, the care home in Somerset where he was living. He was 111.

The care home released a statement which read: "It is with much sadness that we must announce the death of Mr Harry Patch at the age of 111.

"Funeral arrangements are being made in accordance with Mr Patch's wishes, and we wish to extend our deepest sympathies to his family, friends and the residents and staff of Fletcher House."

Chief Executive of Somerset Care, Andrew Larpent, said Mr Patch had been unwell for some time and had died peacefully in his bed.

He said: "His friends and his family have been here. He just quietly slipped away at 9am this morning.

"It was how he would have wanted it, without having to be moved to hospitals but here, peacefully with his friends and carers."

Prime Minister Gordon Brown paid tribute to Mr Patch, saying: "I had the honour of meeting Harry, and I share his family's grief at the passing of a great man.

"I know that the whole nation will unite today to honour the memory, and to take pride in the generation that fought the Great War.

"The noblest of all the generations has left us, but they will never be forgotten.

"We say today with still greater force: 'We will remember them'."

Prince Charles said nothing could give him greater pride than to pay tribute to Mr Patch.

He told the BBC: "The Great War is a chapter in our history we must never forget, so many sacrifices were made, so many young lives lost.

"So today nothing could give me greater pride than paying tribute to Harry Patch from Somerset.

"Harry was involved in numerous bouts of heavy fighting on the front line but amazingly remained unscathed for a while.

"Tragically one night in September 1917 when in the morass in the Ypres Salient a German shrapnel shell burst over head badly wounding Harry and killing three of his closest friends.

"In spite of the comparatively short time that he served with the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry Harry always cherished the extraordinary camaraderie that the appalling conditions engendered in the battalion and remained loyal to the end."

His biographer Richard Van Emden told the BBC that Mr Patch's death was, "an enormous loss".

"He was the last of that generation and the poignancy of that is almost overwhelming. He remembered all of those who died and suffered and every time he was honoured he knew it was for all of those who fought."

He said that his conversations with Mr Patch as he compiled the story of his life were, "a real education".

"He had a sparkle about him, a dry sense of humour, he was just a lovely man. He was one of the most rewarding people to be with."

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