Preparations begin for Last Tommy’s funeral

Author: By Joe Sinclair and Laura May, PA

Mr Patch, known as the Last Tommy, died peacefully just before 9am yesterday
at Fletcher House nursing home in Wells, Somerset.

The Queen, the Prince of Wales and Prime Minister Gordon Brown led the
tributes to Mr Patch, who become Britain’s oldest man when another veteran
of the war, Henry Allingham, died on July 18, aged 113.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said Mr Patch’s funeral would be held
in Wells Cathedral and would focus on prayers for peace and reconciliation.

He said: “The funeral cortege through Wells and the subsequent service at the
Cathedral will be an opportunity for the people of this country to pay
respect to Harry as the last representative of those who served in the
trenches.”

Calls have already been made for Mr Patch to be given a state funeral but his
family are yet to announce details.

Asked in 2007 about how he would like to be remembered, Mr Patch reportedly
rejected the idea of any special arrangements.

But he accepted the principle of a state funeral as a mark of respect for the
generation who fought in the First World War.

He said he would like to buried in a private ceremony alongside his family in
Monkton Combe Church.

Mr Allingham’s public funeral with military honours will take place in
Brighton next Thursday.

There will be a screen put up in the grounds of St Nicholas’ Church, Dyke
Road, for members of the public to take part and some of the service will be
shown live on television.

Senior representatives of the Government and the Armed Forces will attend the
service alongside Mr Allingham’s family, who will fly in from the US.

The only remaining British-born veteran of the First World War is now Claude
Choules, 108, who served in the Royal Navy and now lives in Perth,
Australia.

Mr Patch, a machine-gunner, served in the trenches as a private from June to
September 1917 and fought in the battle of Passchendaele in which more than
70,000 British troops died.

He was born on June 17 1898 and grew up in Combe Down, near Bath.

The Queen said: “I was saddened to hear of the death this morning of Harry
Patch, the last British survivor or the First World War.

“We will never forget the bravery and enormous sacrifice of his generation,
which will continue to serve as an example to us all.”

A Clarence House spokesman said “The Prince of Wales is saddened to hear of
Harry Patch’s death. He was the last of a remarkable generation whose
selfless sacrifice for this country should never be forgotten.”

Charles said nothing could give him greater pride than to pay tribute to Mr
Patch.

He told the BBC: “He epitomised the courage, the long sufferingness and the
tenacity of his generation.

“He represents the last first hand account of the terrible price those gallant
soldiers paid to win the freedom we enjoy today.”

The Prime Minister said: “The noblest of all the generations has left us, but
they will never be forgotten.”

Mr Patch did not speak about his First World War experiences until he turned
100.

He was staunchly anti-war, saying it wasn’t worth a single life.

As well as launching poppy appeals, he became an agony uncle columnist for
lads magazine FHM and had a special edition cider named after him.

His biography, The Last Fighting Tommy, was published in 2007.

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