Saturday, July 25, 2009

Wire: Last UK WWI Veteran Dies at 111

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, July 25, 2009 -- Newswire services this morning reported that Harry Patch, Britain's last survivor of the trenches of World War I, died Saturday at 111,

The Associated Press reported that Patch, a reluctant soldier and a symbol of a lost generation, had been 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," written with historian Richard van Emden, AP said.

The Fletcher House care home in Wells, southwest England, said Patch "quietly slipped away" on Saturday morning.

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.

Prince Charles said "nothing could give me greater pride" than paying tribute to Patch.

"The Great War is a chapter in our history we must never forget, so many sacrifices were made, so many young lives lost," the prince said.

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 was one of the last living links to "the war to end all wars," which killed about 20 million people in years of fighting between the Allied Powers — including Britain, France and the United States — and Germany and its allies. The Ministry of Defense said he was the last soldier of any nationality to have fought in the brutal trench warfare that has become the enduring image of the conflict, AP said.

There are no French or German veterans of the war left alive. The last known U.S. veteran is Frank Buckles of Charles Town, West Virginia, 108, who drove ambulances in France for the U.S. Army.

(Report from newswire sources.)

Read more: Last UK veteran of WWI trench battles dies at 111

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