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Harry Patch (1898 – 2009)


The nation has been moved by the courage of the First World War veteran Harry Patch. He has been described as an ambassador for peace and reconciliation. His belief that war is murder is well known. His horrific experiences in the trenches as he saw his friends die troubled him for all his days. He was a man unready to talk about war and it wasn’t until he was a 100 years old that he began to do so.

Most sane human beings would agree that war is terrible and yes that war is murder, the problem is that often we slip into war for a reason. That in August 1914 Germany had attacked and invaded Belgium and its ally the Austro-Hungarian Empire had attacked Serbia were the initial causes of the First World War. What then should have been done? Should Great Britain have shrugged its shoulders and ignored such militaristic success what would happened next if Great Britain had not gone to war? Again in 1939 we saw again a rampant, aggressive German state bulldoze or shall we say conducted blitzkrieg by using its military once again into war in western Europe after having already attacked Poland and there is little doubt as to the motives of the then Nazi German regime we were definitely on the future list of subjected peoples.

Most of us would agree that our soldiers in the First World War had the worst generals – senior offices ever to have held office, men who could not lead nor had any idea of the price the ordinary soldier was paying in that living hell. Officers such as Earl Haig were astonishingly rewarded following the war.

So I’m troubled by Harry’s viewpoint, whilst war is murder, whilst war is terrible sometimes you have to make a stand against a bully. I do have respect for Harry Patch he knew only too well how lucky he was to survive the war; for him as for millions caught up in that war an unpleasant death was but a heart beat away.

We all have distant relatives who gave their lives during the First World War, goodness knows how many returned from the trenches with physical and mental injuries who would never again live normal lives. Every town and village has its First World War memorial the scars are deep.

So now as Harry Patch the last veteran of the First World War now lies in peace let us remember all those who gave their lives in that dreadful war.

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