PATCH-IT-ALL ....our family blog

Sunday, July 26, 2009


Harry Patch, Britain's oldest remaining survivor of World War I, passed away yesterday, Saturday, July 25, 2009. He was 111 years old. Do we know if he was a relative? Well, if he was, he was far removed. But he shares our name, and so it does catch our attention.

Wikipedia shares lots of information about Harry, almost all of it referring to his WWI experience. Apparently he refused to speak about the war for almost 100 years. Seriously, he joined the service in 1917 at the age of 19. He finally broke his silence in the past few years, when it became clear that he was one of the last remaining soldiers of WWI in the world! (Of course my sarcastic husband says that is because there is no one left to dispute him!)

He survived 90 days in the trenches at a battle in Battle of Passchendaele while thousands of soldiers died all around him. One of his final acts was to return to this battlefield and lay a wreath of poppies in memory of all those who died, including the German enemy combatants.

"Any one of them could have been me. Millions of men came to fight in this war and I find it incredible that I am the only one left."
—Commenting on graves at a Flanders war cemetery, July 2007
With all his ribbons and medals, Harry despised war. He took no glory in it. He reflected on a moment when he came face to face with a German soldier in combat and thought of the Ten Commandments as he faced him down. Harry shot him in the shoulder, he shot him in the knee, and in the ankle. To his great relief, he brought him down without killing him.

Recalling the death of another soldier Harry said:

"And when that fellah died, he just said one word: ‘Mother.’ It wasn’t a cry of despair. It was a cry or surprise and joy. I think - although I wasn’t allowed to see her - I am sure his mother was in the next world to welcome him. And he knew it. I was just allowed to see that much and no more. And from that day until today - and now I’m nearly 106 years old - I shall always remember that cry and I shall always remember that death is not the end.

You’ve got a memory. You’ve got a brain about the size of a tea cup. I’ve got a memory that goes back for 80 or 90 years and I think that memory goes on with you when you die. And that’s my opinion. Death is not the end."

These are the few things I have learned about Harry Patch and I feel honored to share his name. He has gone on to join his three wives and two sons who passed away before him. Sounds like a Patch to me!

1 comment:

Polly said...

thanks for sharing, I've found Harry Patch very interesting and hadn't heard that he had died. I wonder if he was buried in the armoire he built.