Sunday, 26 July 2009

Respect is due: Harry Patch, 1898-2009

How many people live in three centuries?

Harry Patch, aged 111, and Britain's oldest World War One soldier, died today (1).

Unlike a lot of people, Patch didn't want to fight. He didn't enlist, but was conscripted, in 1917:

Harry didn't want to join up and waited until military conscription was enforced before enrolling.

"I didn't want to go and fight anyone, but it was a case of having to.

"When it came, army life didn't appeal to me at all and when I found out how rough and tumble it could be, I liked it even less.

"I mean, why should I go out and kill somebody I never knew and for what reason? I wasn't at all patriotic. I went and did what was asked of me and no more." (2)

An old man has died. Let's not get dewy-eyed about the fact he was a war veteran. He didn't want to be. He fought - reluctantantly - in a war that was, even by the standards of war, particularly stupid, unnecessary and bloody. I do not think we should dishonour the dead with faux sentimentality over their 'sacrifice' as they didn't sacrifice themselves for anything worthwhile - two german monarchs squaring off against each other, two semi-democratic empires trying to decide - in the bloodiest way possible - which got to be the biggest and most powerful of all. And both lost.

I'd say Patch's achievement was putting the horrible things he saw behind him. So respect to him for living a humble but worthwhile life, after damn well near having it torn away from him by the psychopathic imbeciles who drove their countries into World War One.
1 - "Harry Patch, Britain's last surviving soldier of the Great War, dies at 111," by Tracey McVeigh and Mark Townsend, published in The Guardian, 26th of July, 2009. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jul/26/world-war-one-veteran-harry-patch-dies-aged-111)
2 - "In Profile: Harry Patch," unattributed BBC article, published 25th of July, 2009. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/somerset/hi/people_and_places/newsid_8168000/8168179.stm)

No comments: