The Last Fighting Tommy
|Author||Harry Patch, Richard van Emden|
Harry Patch, the last British soldier alive to have fought in the trenches of World War I, is now 108 years old and one of very few people who can directly recall the horror of that conflict. Harry vividly remembers his childhood in the Somerset countryside of Edwardian England. He left school in 1913 to become an apprentice plumber but three years later was conscripted, serving as a machine gunner in the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry. Fighting in the mud and trenches during the Battle of Passchendaele, he saw a great many of his comrades die, and in one dreadful moment the shell that wounded him killed his three closest friends. In vivid detail he describes daily life in the trenches, the terror of being under intense artillery fire, and the fear of going over the top. Then, after the Armistice, the soldiers’ frustration at not being quickly demobbed led to a mutiny in which Harry was soon caught up. World War II saw Harry in action on the home front as a firefighter during the bombing of Bath. He also warmly describes his friendship with American GIs preparing to go to France, and, years later, his tears when he saw their graves. Late in life Harry achieved fame, meeting the Queen and taking part in the BBC documentary The Last Tommies, finally shaking hands with a German veteran of the artillery, and speaking out frankly to Tony Blair about the soldiers shot for cowardice in World War I. The Last Fighting Tommy is the story of an ordinary man’s extraordinary life.
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