Harry Patch

Felt like quite a momentous day today.  I sat there in the thunderstorm (seems to be a thunderstorm every day this summer) watching the BBC coverage of Harry Patch’s memorial service.  He was the last surviving soldier to have fought in the trenches of the First World War, in which he battled at Ypres.  With him goes the last physical link to that period of history.  From what I can gather about him, he was an admiral pacifist.  His pallbearers were from Belgium, France and Germany as well as the UK, because he believed that young men of all the countries involved were equal victims of the big old sorry mess that WW1 turned out to be.  His obituary is worth reading.  It’s terribly sad that he outlived his two sons and three wives, but he was very very old when he died – one hundred and eleven.


My writing hero is a Second World War poet, Keith Douglas.  I find his confused, lovesick, personal take on the horror of war more immediately engaging than the work of the First World War poets.  All the same, I think the sentiment in this feels fitting on an occasion like today…


A couple of other links you might like if you found Harry Patch’s funeral as moving as I did…

 Harry Patch (In Memory Of), Radiohead’s memorial song to raise money for the Royal British Legion http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_8184000/8184802.stm

The Five Acts of Harry Patch, a poem by Andrew Motion http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/3671688/The-Five-Acts-of-Harry-Patch.html

Carol Ann Duffy’s feature on war poetry from the other weekend http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/jul/25/war-poetry-carol-ann-duffy