Thursday, August 06, 2009

Goodnight Harry

Today was the funeral of Harry Patch who died last month aged 111. His death follows shortly after that of Henry Allingham, another WWI veteran who had been the world's oldest man at the time of his death. The officiating clergyman called it "the end of an era". That phrase gets used a lot and is seldom warranted. Today I believe it was justified. With Harry's death the last first hand voice from the trench warfare of the First World War has been lost. From now on, it all becomes hearsay and second hand accounts.

Harry kept silent about his war experiences for decades after the war. When he did speak, it was to condemn war in the strongest terms. He said no conflict was worth the loss of a single life. I tend to agree with him. Having heard since his death of some of the atrocities that he witnessed, I find it remarkable that anyone returned from the trenches to lead a normal life.

At Harry's request, his funeral was attended by a German Charg' Affaires, whose reflection can be heard here. His whole life was about peace and reconciliation, which was further reflected by the choice of song performed for the occasion by a chorister, and performed here by the inimitable Joan Baez.

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