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Harry Patch: The stirring words of Britain’s ‘last fighting Tommy’

“WAR isn’t worth one life,” Harry Patch - the man nicknamed “the last fighting Tommy” - said before his death on July 25, 2009.

Mr Patch, who was the last British First World War soldier to pass away, became a symbol of dignity and unswerving honesty about the horrors of the trenches.

The veteran, of Combe Down, a small village near Bath, was born on 17 June, 1898 - while Queen Victoria was still on the throne.

He was conscripted into the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry in 1917 and trained as a machine gunner - having left school at the age of 13 to train as a plumber.

Despite not breaking his silence about the Great War until after his 100th birthday, Mr Patch became famous for the unerring humanism of his words.

In recorded excerpts of his memoirs, he said: “I had no inclination to fight anybody. I mean why should I go out and kill somebody who I never knew? For what reason?”

Mr Patch found himself en route to Reims on his 19th birthday and installed in the trenches in July, 1917.

He arrived in time to witness the Third Battle of Ypres, also known as the mud-soaked offensive, Passchendale.

His brother had been injured in Mons while serving with the Royal Engineers and Mr Patch said he knew he did not want to take to the deep trenches, surrounded by filth and exploding shells.

He said: “I think every man who went on the front line at some time or another was scared. And if any man tells you he wasn’t scared then he’s a damn liar.

“When it came to the point where we went into action I was scared stiff because I thought the first time I go over the top - you don’t know how much longer you are going to live.”

Questioning the “war to end all wars”, he said before his death: “It wasn’t worth it. No war is worth it. No war is worth the loss of a couple of lives let alone thousands.”

After the conflict he returned to plumbing and raised his family in the West Country. When he died in his sleep at a nursing home in Wells, Somerset he was Britain’s oldest man.

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