Harry Patch

To keep you inspired with ideas for our World Record Poetry Competition Attempt, we will be posting regular stories relating to World War 1.  If you have any personal stories or stories of interest relating to the war, we would love to hear from you, so we can share these with our supporters.


This week we would like to share with you the story of Harry Patch...


  • Harry Patch was the last surviving combat soldier of the First World War from any country.
  • He fought in France and Belgium, returning to England in 1917 after being wounded.
  • Patch won 8 medals and honours, including the British War Medal, Victory Medal and National Service Medal.
  • Harry Patch died aged 111. The cathedral bells were rung 111 times, and no soldiers attending his funeral were allowed to carry guns, as Patch had requested.
The following poem was written in memory of Harry Patch... 

The Death Of Harry Patch (2012)

by Andrew Motion

When the next morning eventually breaks,
a young Captain climbs onto the fire step,
knocks ash from his pipe then drops it
still warm into his pocket, checks his watch,
and places the whistle back between his lips.
At 06.00 hours precisely he gives the signal,
but today nothing that happens next happens
according to plan. A very long and gentle note
wanders away from him over the ruined ground
and hundreds of thousands of dead who lie there
immediately rise up, straightening their tunics
before falling in as they used to do, shoulder to
shoulder, eyes front. They have left a space
for the last recruit of all to join them: Harry Patch,
one hundred and eleven years old, but this is him
now, running quick-sharp along the duckboards.
When he has taken his place, and the whole company
are settled at last, their padre appears out of nowhere,
pausing a moment in front of each and every one
to slip a wafer of dry mud onto their tongues.