THEY CALLED IT PASSCHENDAELE
Harry Patch, 109, is the oldest living British survivor of the Battle of Passchendaele, which started on July 31st 1917. He has just returned from Belgium where, with historian Richard van Emden, he has been revisiting the site of the five-month-long engagement that resulted in over half-a-million British & German casualties.
Harry Patch was badly wounded in the battle & three of his friends were killed by a shell that landed only yards from where he was standing.
“Too many died”, said Harry. “War is the calculated & condoned slaughter of human beings... War isn’t worth one life”.
Siegfried Sassoon could have been writing about Harry Patch in his poem Memorial Tablet.
Squire nagged and bullied till I went to fight,
(Under Lord Derby's scheme). I died in hell -
(They called it Passchendaele). My wound was slight,
And I was hobbling back; and then a shell
Burst slick upon the duckboards: so I fell
Into the bottomless mud, and lost the light.
At sermon-time, while Squire is in his pew,
He gives my gilded name a thoughtful stare;
For, though low down upon the list, I'm there;
"In proud and glorious memory" ... that's my due.
Two bleeding years I fought in France, for Squire:
I suffered anguish that he's never guessed.
I came home on leave: and then went west...
What greater glory could a man desire?
'You should have heard just what I seen...'