The visit of Harry Patch, at 109 years old said to be the last surviving British Infantryman to have seen action in The Great War, to the battlefield of Passchendaele where, as a Private Soldier of the 7th. Bn., The Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, he took part in one of the greatest battles in history, is a deeply poignant moment.Understandably he remains bitter at what he saw then and sees now as the grave waste of men’s lives, especially amongst the PBI, the Poor Bloody Infantry. From his viewpoint it must have seemed like that and no more than that.

This is no place to contemplate the full history of that war, yet it is worth making the point that this was a war which was the first instalment of the struggle to prevent Germany, whether Wilhelmine Imperial Germany or Hitlerite Nazi Germany from dominating and enslaving most of Europe.

How sad that he should be alive to see Tony Blair carelessly sign away that which a million of Private Patch’s comrades died to preserve: The United Kingdom’s independence as a Nation State.

Ironically, given Private Patch’s strictures, the army of which he was a member went on in July 1918 to become quite simply the finest fighting Army this country has ever produced. Then its commanders had finally cracked the puzzle of how to defeat the machine gun the howitzer and the trench mortar and the BEF swept across Northern France and Belgium pushing the defeated German Army back towards the German border. Had the Armistice not come into force on 11th. November of that year, the BEF would have been marching in triumph up Unter den Linden in Berlin by Christmas.

He is the last of those fine men that represents the lost generation of the Edwardian period. It was once mooted that the last to go should be given a full State Funeral. It is to be hoped that that will still happen, so that we may say goodbye once more and pay our last respects to those gallant young men who gave their all for us, a last chance to honour them and grieve for them.

IN MEMORY OF
LANCE-CORPORAL GORDON CLARKE DRAGE WINDER
28th. Battalion Canadian Infantry
Younger son of William John Winder & Fanny Garrett Winder (née Drage)
of The Grange, Holcot, Northamptonshire
Born 1892
Killed in Action Vimy Ridge, France

16th. September 1916
Commemorated upon The Vimy Memorial
and upon the

Village War Memorial, Holcot, Northamptonshire

 

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