Vague ramblings

Harry Patch: All quiet on the Western Front

Posted in Life by Ian Cundell on 25 July, 2009

It is not often that we get to know the exact moment of the passing of a generation. Ten to nine this morning was one such moment, with the death of Harry Patch, The Last Tommy.

Navy veteran Claude Choules is still with us, but with Harry Patch’s passing the Western Front has disappeared from living memory. For those who served from Mons to Ypres, The Somme to Verdun, and again at Ypres – Passchendaele – for those, their testament is now final.

They will give us no more words. We will not see the extraordinary mixture of pain and pride as Harry Patch visits the memorial to his fallen comrades or as Henry Allingham, who died last week, says not to remember him, but his brothers in arms long lost.

If we seek inspiration – whether to capture the horror or the heroism, the sacrifice or the slaughter, the spirit of the Tommy, the German, the French or Italian, the ANZAC or American – there is no-one left to ask. The millions who served have joined the hundreds of thousands who stayed behind. All that they have said and done is now everything that we have.

Tonight at the Menin Gate, I suspect that The Last Post will have a very special poignancy.

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