Harry Patch, last British WWI veteran, dies at 111
Jul 25, 8:04 AM (ET)
LONDON (AP) - Harry Patch, the last British military veteran of World War I, has died at 111, the nursing home where he lived said Saturday.
The Fletcher House care home in Wells, southwest England, said Patch died early Saturday.
Patch had been the last surviving soldier from the British Army to have served in the 1914-18 war. The only other surviving British veteran of the war, former airman Henry Allingham, died a week ago at age 113.
Patch was called up for service in the British army in 1917 when he was working as a teenage apprentice plumber.
A few weeks later, in one of the bloodiest battles of the Great War, at Passchendaele, near the Belgian town of Ypres, he was badly wounded and three of his best friends were killed by a shell explosion.
Patch's death Saturday severs Britain's living links with "the war to end all wars," which killed about 20 million people.
In recent years he and his dwindling band of fellow survivors became poignant symbols of the conflict.
Last year he, Allingham and Bill Stone - the last British naval veteran of the war - attended remembrance ceremonies at the Cenotaph in London to mark the 90th anniversary of the war's end at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. The three frail men in wheelchairs laid wreaths of red poppies at the base of the stone memorial.
Stone died in January.
At a remembrance ceremony in 2007, Patch said he felt "humbled that I should be representing an entire generation."
"Today is not for me. It is for the countless millions who did not come home with their lives intact. They are the heroes," he said. "It is also important we remember those who lost their lives on both sides."
Patch said he did not speak about the war for 80 years. But he came to believe the casualties were not justified.
"I met someone from the German side and we both shared the same opinion: we fought, we finished and we were friends," he said in 2007.
"It wasn't worth it."