The Last Tommy July 31, 2007Posted by Peter Hornby in history.
Ninety years ago this month, the Battle of Passchendaele, the most horrific sustained period of military carnage in modern times, started. Passchendaele lasted for three months. By the time Canadian troops finally captured the town of Passchendaele, in November 1917, the combatants had sustained over 750,000 casualties.
Of the millions of soldiers who passed through the unimaginable horror of the World War I trenches, only one now remains alive – Harry Patch.
Harry Patch was conscripted as an eighteen-year-old boy in 1916, and lived through the Battle of Passchendaele. He’s now 109 years old. In recent years, he has talked a little about his experiences. Patch’s memories of war, about which he remained silent for eighty years, even to his wife, have been recorded by the BBC here. They make harrowing reading. It’s hard to comprehend the utter degradation of trench warfare, of duckboards over mud so deep it could drown a horse, of the desperation of seeing your friends killed in front of you.
Harry Patch recently revisited the battle site with the historian Richard van Emden, marking the 90th anniversary of the start of the battle. The BBC has a video of the visit, which culminates with him laying a wreath at the German memorial to the war dead. Van Emden has also published a book called The Last Fighting Tommy, recording Harry Patch’s life.
Listen to the simple wisdom of Harry Patch, the last Tommy.
It wasn’t worth it. No war is worth it. No war is worth the loss of a couple of lives let alone thousands. T’isn’t worth it …
– Harry Patch