Sunday, June 18, 2006
The second oldest British veteran of the First World War turned 108 on Saturday, June 17th. He celebrated this at his retirement home in Wells, in the south-west of England.
Harry Patch was called up to fight in 1917 at the age of 18, whilst he was a plumber’s apprentice in Bath. Several days later he was in Belgium, participating in the Third Battle of Ypres, in Belgium, a battle which would kill 70000 soldiers in three months alone. Patch left the combat zone on September 22 after he was hit by a piece of shrapnel from a shell that had killed three of his companions.
“I always remember September 22. That was the day three of my friends were killed,” he said. “It was mud, more mud, and even more mud, and the lot was mixed with blood,” he remembers. Patch is still convinced that the war was useless.
The oldest living British veteran of the war is Henry Allingham, 110, who served in the Royal Naval Air Service, which would later become the Royal Air Force. The oldest man to have seen combat in the war is Moses Hardy, 113, in the United States, and the oldest to have served in the armed forces during the war is Emiliano Mercado Del Toro, 114, again from the United States.