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Harry Patch
Harry Patch.jpg
Harry Patch at age 109
Born (1898-06-17)17 June 1898
Combe Down, Somerset, England
Died 25 July 2009(2009-07-25) (aged 111)
Wells, Somerset, England
Allegiance United Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Years of service 1916–1918
Rank Private
Unit 7th Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry
Battles/wars First World War
Awards Officer of the Légion d'honneur
Knight of the Order of Leopold
British War Medal
Victory Medal
1939-45 Defence Medal
National Service Medal
Hors de combat
Freedom of the City of Wells
Honorary Master of Arts, Bristol
Other work Plumber, firefighter

Henry John Patch (17 June 1898 – 25 July 2009), dubbed in his later years "the Last Fighting Tommy", was a British supercentenarian, briefly the oldest man in Europe and the last surviving combat soldier of the First World War from any country. He is known to have fought in the trenches of the Western Front. Patch was the longest-surviving combat soldier of World War I, but he was the fifth-longest-surviving veteran of any sort from World War I, behind British veterans Claude Choules and Florence Green, Frank Buckles of the United States and John Babcock of Canada. At the time of his death, aged 111 years, 1 month, 1 week and 1 day, Patch was the third-oldest man in the world and the oldest man in Europe.

World War I

Patch fought bravely in the trenches in World War I. He became a plumber and firefighter. He never talked to anybody about his terrible experiences in the trenches. When he was 100 years old he decided he should tell people about what he had seen in the war. He still had 11 more years to live after that. When he died at the age of 111 he was the last British person who had fought in the First World War. This is why he was known as "the Last Tommy". For the last seven days of his life he was the oldest man in Europe. He did not want to have a state funeral. The funeral was at Wells Cathedral. A very large number of people came. They were mostly ordinary people, but there were also some important people including the Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. For many of the people there it was a last opportunity to pay respects to the people who fought in the war.


Harry decided to talk about his experiences because he wanted everyone to realize how terrible wars are. When he talked to the BBC he said: "...if any man tells you he went over the top and he wasn't scared, he's a damn liar." In the same series, he talked about his friends who were killed, and about the moment when he came face to face with a German soldier. He remembered the Bible story about Moses coming down from Mount Sinai with God's commandment, 'thou shalt not kill'. He could not bring himself to kill the German. Instead, he shot him in the shoulder, which made him drop his rifle. But the German carried on running towards Patch's gun, so he then shot him above the knee, and in the ankle. Patch said, "I had about five seconds to make the decision. I brought him down, but I didn't kill him."

Later years and death

Patch was born and died in Somerset. In his last years he lived in a nursing home in Wells where he died on 25 July 2009 from natural causes, he was 111 years old. He died just seven days after the death of Henry Allingham, aged 113, who had been the only other remaining British-resident First World War veteran. Harry Patch received eight medals.

Harry Patch's medals

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