The Last Tommy

An article from the Telegraph that was brought to my attention by Piper on the book club concerns Harry Patch, the last Tommy of the Great War.
Harry Patch survived the bloodbath that was Passchendaele, three months of human sacrifice in the autumn of 1917 that left half a million British soldiers dead or wounded, including Henry John Patch.
“The afternoon is wearing on and Mr Patch is tired. He pauses to listen to the children playing. What does it feel like to be the last of those millions, that army of ghosts?
“I don’t like it,” he says and then adds: “I sit there and think. And some nights I dream – of that first battle. I can’t forget it.
“I fell in a trench. There was a fella there. He must have been about our age. He was ripped shoulder to waist with shrapnel. I held his hand for the last 60 seconds of his life. He only said one word: ‘Mother’. I didn’t see her, but she was there. No doubt about it. He passed from this life into the next, and it felt as if I was in God’s presence.
“I’ve never got over it. You never forget it. Never.”

109 years old, Harry Patch, and he still has nightmares about the war.

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  1. Kerry on August 12, 2007 at 3:01 pm

    Thank you, Laurie. This inspired me to go back to my family album, which includes a long article featuring my grandfather’s memories of the war. He was among the last of the American Doughboys to go overseas and was there for the last big push in France. He was assigned to be a machine gunner, but apparently never used his Chauchot because it was impossible to set up from a prone position, and standing around long enough to assemble it on its tripod was a sure invitation to German snipers. He faced several close calls but was never wounded seriously. His stories were sobering to read, and it’s good to be reminded of what soldiers must face when we send them to battle.

  2. riobonito on August 12, 2007 at 5:03 pm

    ahhh…breaks the heart. I grew up in the 50’ old enough to hear first hand stories of my great uncles in ‘The War to end all Wars” and stories from my Dad and uncles and their experiences in Wll. I heard many things, some things that were mistakes, friendly fire, or atrocities. On a brighter note, some stories that were interesting and some that even amused. I flounder at times with this current war. I see how people take an incident and use it as the reason we shouldn’t be in this war…yes it (different situations) are a horrible thing..and wrong, no two words about it. Then I reflect on my own families experiences and wonder about that mind set. What if we were to take the wrongs/mistakes we have done so far in this war and pull out or say we made a bad decision to be where we are now. I don’t know. I’m NOT qualified to say. I don’t have a child there, as some of you do. Nor am I privy to the all the facts, It’s just been on my mind…war is hell, sadly we need it sometimes. So please don’t stone me, with anti-war replies..just my thoughts of growing up with two generations and hearing what they experienced and thankful Hitler’s off spring are not in control of my beloved country now.

  3. emyers on August 14, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    riobonito, your comment strikes a chord with me. Our country going to war, or not, with all the possible consequences one way or another, and imperfect and incomplete information…arghh! I think I’d like to see some other qualifications for people running for president–the ultimate decision-maker–than being able to raise money.

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