The last WW1 veteran of the trenches Harry Patch has died
www.irishdigest.com as an Irish online news service, today remembers a World World 1 war veteran, who has gone to his eternal reward. You may not even have heard the name of Harry Patch before his death. He was an English man that abhored war and he had every right to do so.
Conscripted into the British Army, he not only survived the War, he became an active advocate of the horrors of war.
Harry died yesterday at the age of 111, the oldest British survivor of the trenches of the Great War, also known as World War One.
For many generations, especially in the south of Ireland, the bravest of Irish men, who went and fought in the Great War were tossed to the side of history, like a long forgotten rag doll.
Many young Irish men fought for “the freedom of small nations”, for others it was the escape from home monotony; indeed some of the misguided yearned for excitement and of course there were those in the north of the country fighting for their Empire.
The complicated Irish political maze of the time meant that some were fighting for Home Rule, while others were fighting in order to prevent that same Home Rule from coming about. Black & White, it was definitely not.
It is not for us, to cast judgement, on the reasons, why they volunteered. But they did not deserve to be used, in the way that they did.
It was a horrible war, a carnage that still sinks deep into the psyche of modern Europe. The slaughter propagated in many cases by military strategists who used brave men of all nationalities like pawns on a chess board.
It exposed, in the most fundamental way, the futility of war, the incredulity of evil and the pathetic excuses that justified the slaughter of the innocents.
Many came back to a different Ireland, that they had left. There were no psychologists, no therapists, no understandings of what these Irish men had gone through.
The changing political climate meant that they did not get to speak and talk through their hell on earth; They kept it boxed up, most taking their pain to the grave.
The Irish lost tens of thousands of people in World War One. It cannot be cast aside as some sort of war that only the British were involved in.
With the last survivor of the trenches, now dead, only the memory now survives.
That is why it’s so important to remember that these horrors are not ancient tales of barbarism and brutality from the middle ages, they are important reminders of just how small minds, stupid virtues and ill thought out plans can bring a generation to its knees. And a man directly connected with this event lived until yesterday.
By comparisons with other nations, the Irish attrition rate was moderate, but Ireland lost 35,000 souls during the war and just to put it into context the carnage that did occur, on two days – July 1st and July 2nd in the Battle of the Somme saw the 36th (Ulster) Division decimated – 5,500 killed, wounded or missing, from a total of 15,000.