Harry Patch, the last surviving World War I veteran to have fought in the trenches of Europe, has died at the age of 111 in the south-west of England. Patch fought in the 1917 battle of Passchendaele, which left 500,000 soldiers dead.
AFP - Harry Patch, the last soldier to fight in the trenches of Europe during World War I, died Saturday at the age of 111, his care home in southwest England said.
Patch, who fought at the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917, was also Britain's oldest man following the death of fellow veteran Henry Allingham, who was also the world's oldest man, one week ago.
He is the last World War I veteran to have served in the trenches, according to the dersdesders.free.fr website, which is regarded as an authoritative chronicle of veterans of the conflict.
"The Great War is a chapter in our history we must never forget, so many sacrifices were made, so many young lives lost," said Prince Charles, reacting to Patch's death.
"So today nothing could give me greater pride than paying tribute to Harry Patch."
"The noblest of all the generations has left us, but they will never be forgotten," echoed Prime Minister Gordon Brown. "We say today with still greater force, we will remember them."
Claude Choules, 108, who lives in Perth, Australia and served with the Royal Navy, now becomes the last surviving British veteran of the 1914-18 conflict.
Patch -- nicknamed "The Last Tommy" by Britain's media -- was conscripted into the British army at the age of 18 and served as a machine gunner with the 7th Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry.
He was 19 when he fought in the Battle of Passchendaele, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres, in Belgium in July-November 1917 in which an estimated 500,000 soldiers died.
That battle was one of the bloodiest in the conflict. One of the opposing German soldiers was an Austrian named Adolf Hitler, who as leader of Nazi Germany went on to launch World War II in Europe.
After four months in the trenches, Patch was wounded by shrapnel in a German shell attack in which three of his comrades died. He was sent home to Britain and his war was over.
Patch's care home, Fletcher House in Wells, southwest England, said he had died early Saturday.
"Funeral arrangements are being made in accordance with Mr Patch's wishes, and we wish to extend our deepest sympathies to his family".
Date created : 2009-07-25