I suppose it was bound to happen at some time as they couldn’t physically live on forever, but nonetheless it is very sad that Henry Allingham and Harry Patch both passed away this week, leaving the UK with just one physical link to horror and carnage of the ‘War to end all Wars’.
Henry Allingham was the oldest gentleman in the world when he passed away peacefully in the early hours of July 18th aged 113. A veteran of the Battle of Jutland as well serving on the Western Front, he was also a founder member of the RAF (The RNAS and RFC merged to form the RAF in April 1918).
7 days later on July 25th Harry Patch, the last surviving infantryman also passed away. Mr Patch had become something of a celebrity over the last few years with many historians, authors and tv companies trying to filter out his last memories of trench warfare. Harry fought at Ypres in 1917 until 22 September when he was injured by a shell bursting right over his head. He sustained a nasty abdominal injury, but 3 members of his Lewis Gun team were all killed. He never returned to the front but the memories of that day obviously stayed with him. He was often quoted as saying that the 22nd September was his rememberance day.
With the passing of these 2 hero’s the sole British survivor of the Great War is former seaman Claude Choules. Mr Choules served in the Royal Navy and is 108, he is living in Australia but is originally from Worcestershire.
With the passing of these old gentlemen we will lose our physical link with WW1, that is inevitable I suppose, however what must never happen is that we should forget. We must never fail to teach our children, and our children’s children, the horror of this conflict, the suffering of these ordinary men, and ultimately, what they suffered for.
Thank you Henry and Harry, you are back with your old mates now. You deserve a rest.