Friday, 7 August 2009
“organised murder, and nothing less.”
Well one of yesterdays lead news story’s was the funeral of Harry Patch dubbed the last British Tommy due to his longevity.
Henry John “Harry” Patch (17 June 1898 – 25 July 2009) – known as “the Last Tommy” – was a British super centenarian, briefly the oldest man in Europe and the last surviving soldier to have fought in the trenches of the First World War. Patch was, with Claude Choules, one of the last two surviving British veterans of the First World War, and along with Frank Buckles and John Babcock, one of the last four worldwide. He was, at the age of 111 years, 38 days, the verified third-oldest man in the world, the oldest man in Europe and one of the 70 oldest men ever
Now, I know that it was only two weeks ago that I wrote about Harry passing away at his care home at the grand age of 111. However I find myself pondering over the life of this very remarkable but ordinary simple and modest man and I mean that in the nicest possible way that I’m able to express appreciation for the lessons and message that Harry has left us all, if only we made the time to think on it!
Harry, from what I can gather, hated war, and called it “organised murder, and nothing less.” (Independent on Sunday, 26th July 2009).
There has always been something terribly sad about the First World War: a useless, worthless enterprise, entered into largely by the German and British ruling class, the price - millions of working class lives.
So the last living memory of the Great War passing on into history was marked by a special service for Harry who up till his retirement was a humble plumber. Yet it wasn’t a company of sanitary engineers who gathered together yesterday to pay their last respects, but rather a full military honour bestowed by the state although Harry himself was opposed to a full state ceremony. I gather that it was his wish to have a simple service without to much fuss given to the occasion. How sad it is then, that the powers that be have to highjack for its own ends, the passing of this great man.
The media as usual, milking anything that supports the equilibrium of the status que and its many justifications for war; and once more for all its worth.
I viewed a BBC news report of the spectators who attended and became intrigued by two interviews one was with a member of a WW1 re-enactment group dressed in full period of time military uniforms’ weapons included and a women who spoke about how fortunate it was that she was able to obtain tickets that enabled her to attend the service inside the Cathedral with the great and good. They both said the same, and I’m certainly sure of one thing and that’s Harry may not have had the same take on it, when articulating that they felt that we all owe that generation, for the freedoms we enjoy today.
One other thing that makes me very uncomfortable whenever I hear it and that’s the solemn recitation of that narrative something along the lines of: “At the going down of the sun and in the morning we shall remember them.”
This was preformed as part of the service unfortunately. However I felt this was countered by a lovely arrangement of the anti-war song ‘Where have all the Flowers Gone’. Harry would have approved of that at the very least!
So to end this entry on the blog I’m going to do it in style with Harry’s own words as my own mark of respect to someone if nothing else was a teacher.
“Last year I went back to Ypres, where I met one of the last surviving German veterans of the war, Charles Kuentz, who was 107. It was very emotional. We had both been on the same battlefield at Pilckem Ridge. For a while I hadn’t wanted to meet him, but I got a letter from him in Germany and he seemed like a nice man and I decided I would meet him. He was a nice man and we talked, then we both sat in silence, staring out at the landscape. Both of us remembering the stench, the noise, the gas, the mud crusted with blood, the cries of the fallen comrades. We had both fought because we were told to”.
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