28 July 2009

The end of an era in The United Kingdom

In the hoopla of American life and the aftermath of our GC09, I missed an historical event of monumental significance.

On 25 July Mr. Harry Patch died at the age of 111. He was the last living British soldier still living in the UK to have fought at Passchendaele where more than 70,000 British troops died.

When Mr Patch was born, on June 17, 1898, the Marquess of Salisbury was Prime Minister and Queen Victoria had two and a half years still to reign.

Kitchener was 11 weeks away from fighting the Battle of Omdurman and the outbreak of the Boer War lay 16 months into the future. H G Wells's latest work, The War of the Worlds, had just been published in book form following its successful serialisation in Pearson's Magazine.

He grew up in Coombe Down, near Bath, left school at 15 and trained as a plumber. He was 16 when war broke out and reached 18 just as conscription was being introduced. He joined the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry.

He was removed from the frontline after a shell attack which killed his friends.

In March, Mr Patch received the insignia of the L├ęgion d'Honneur from the French Ambassador, Maurice Gourdault-Montagne, at his Somerset nursing home. Mr Allingham received the same honour the following week.

BBC has a tribute to Mr. Ptach here.

The sole remaining British born survivor of the Great War is now Claude Choules, 108, who lives in in Australia.

According to the BBC, America and Canada each have one living Great War soldier still living.