LONDON – Harry Patch, Britain’s last survivor of the trenches of World War I, was a reluctant soldier who became a powerful eyewitness to the horror of war.
Patch, who died Saturday at 111, was wounded in 1917 in the Battle of Passchendaele, which he remembered as “mud, mud and more mud mixed together with blood.”
“Anyone who tells you that in the trenches they weren’t scared, he’s a damned liar: you were scared all the time,” Patch was quoted as saying in a book, “The Last Fighting Tommy.”
The Fletcher House care home in Wells, southwest England, said Patch “quietly slipped away” Saturday.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the whole country would mourn “the passing of a great man.”
“The noblest of all the generations has left us, but they will never be forgotten. We say today with still greater force, We Will Remember Them,” Brown said.
Queen Elizabeth II said “we will never forget the bravery and enormous sacrifice of his generation.”
Britain’s Ministry of Defense called Patch the last British military survivor of the 1914-18 war, although British-born Claude Choules of Australia, 108, is believed to have served in the Royal Navy during the conflict.
Patch’s death came just two days after another World War I veteran, Jack Babcock, celebrated his 109th birthday in Spokane. Babcock served with the Canadian military; he moved to Spokane in 1931.