Thursday, 6 August 2009

Raise a glass my friends...

Lest we forget.

Funeral for last veteran of WW1 trenches
Thursday, August 6 09:12 am

More than a thousand people are expected to attend the funeral on Thursday of Harry Patch, who was Britain's last surviving veteran of the World War One trenches until his death at the age of 111 last month.

Patch, born in 1898 and described by his biographer as having a good sense of humour and a "twinkle in his eye," died in a residential home in Somerset, western England.

Friends, family and senior representatives from the government and military, including army chief General Richard Dannatt, are due to attend the ceremony at Wells Cathedral which will have the theme "Peace and Reconciliation."

About 1,000 tickets have been allocated to the public and a large screen will relay the service to others on the Cathedral Green.

The Ministry of Defence said Patch's wish was that people should remember with gratitude and respect all those who fought in the war.

At the end of the service a bugler will sound the Last Post and the cathedral bell will toll 111 times.

Patch, a former plumber, was conscripted as an 18-year-old, and served in the trenches of Ypres on the Western Front, where he was injured and saw three of his closest friends killed in the battle of Passchendaele.

Patch, who served as a machine-gunner for four months in the summer of 1917, did not speak about his war experiences until he turned 100, and in his later years he promoted peace.

"War isn't worth one life," he would say.

His biographer Richard van Emdem said Patch recognised he was a symbol of his generation.

"He was very aware of the fact that he was the very last veteran to have served in the trenches, and I think there was a certain pride in that," he said.

"But he realised ... that after him it would be a gone history. There would be nobody else to talk to and so he felt very strongly that he should remember the dead, that he should remember those who suffered on both sides of the line."

Patch passed away a week after the death of another of the few remaining survivors of the conflict, and the world's oldest man, Henry Allingham, who died aged 113.

The sole British-born survivor of the four year conflict is now seaman Claude Choules, who lives in Australia.

Report by Michael Holden

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