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8/6/09

Lest We Forget


Harry Patch, "The Last Tommy" (the soldiers of World War 1) was today buried. Read these reports of the man and of the ceremony (from a true newspaper of record) that included pallbearers from England and Germany the same age as Harry when the war ended (all at Harry's specific request) and the church bells tolling 111 times, one for each year of his life. Here's an excerpt:

But there were other touches, too, that spoke of Mr Patch’s earnest belief that fighting can never be the right way to solve disputes. During the service a chorister sang the 1960s peace anthem, Where Have All The Flowers Gone: the order of service said that the song had been chosen by his grandson “to reflect Harry’s view of the futility of war”.

Equally symbolically, the coffin was escorted by six other pallbearers, including two soldiers from the German army. Dr Eckhard Wilhelm Lubkemeier, charge d’affaires of the German Embassy, who read a lesson from the Bible at the service, said: “We really appreciate the generous gesture on the part of Harry Patch because he explicitly wanted his former enemy to be represented at his funeral service.

“It is a great honour for us and we really appreciate the opportunity of being here and honouring a great man.”


We owe so much to Harry and all who were there, whether they came back or not and no matter what side they fought on. In a world that debases the word 'hero', there are still people that deserve the true weight of the epithet.


Lest we forget.


Strange Meeting (Wilfred Owen, 1893-1918)

It seemed that out of the battle I escaped
Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped
Through granites which Titanic wars had groined.
Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned,
Too fast in thought or death to be bestirred.
Then, as I probed them, one sprang up, and stared
With piteous recognition in fixed eyes,
Lifting distressful hands as if to bless.
And by his smile, I knew that sullen hall;
With a thousand fears that vision's face was grained;
Yet no blood reached there from the upper ground,
And no guns thumped, or down the flues made moan.
"Strange, friend," I said, "Here is no cause to mourn."
"None," said the other, "Save the undone years,
The hopelessness. Whatever hope is yours,
Was my life also; I went hunting wild
After the wildest beauty in the world,
Which lies not calm in eyes, or braided hair,
But mocks the steady running of the hour,
And if it grieves, grieves richlier than here.
For by my glee might many men have laughed,
And of my weeping something has been left,
Which must die now. I mean the truth untold,
The pity of war, the pity war distilled.
Now men will go content with what we spoiled.
Or, discontent, boil bloody, and be spilled.
They will be swift with swiftness of the tigress,
None will break ranks, though nations trek from progress.
Courage was mine, and I had mystery;
Wisdom was mine, and I had mastery;
To miss the march of this retreating world
Into vain citadels that are not walled.
Then, when much blood had clogged their chariot-wheels
I would go up and wash them from sweet wells,
Even with truths that lie too deep for taint.
I would have poured my spirit without stint
But not through wounds; not on the cess of war.
Foreheads of men have bled where no wounds were.
I am the enemy you killed, my friend.
I knew you in this dark; for so you frowned
Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.
I parried; but my hands were loath and cold.
Let us sleep now . . ."


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