Harry Patch föddes 1898. När han var 18 år tog han värvning som infanterist i skyttegravskriget och fick bl.a. vara med om slaget vid Passchendaele som krävde över 250,000 brittiska soldaters liv och lika många tyskars. Det var det blodigaste och brutalaste slaget under hela Första Världskriget. Det varade 99 dagar och krävde 3000 liv varje dag. Patch lever än idag och är 109 år gammal. Han vägrade prata om kriget förrän han hade fyllt 100 år.
Harry Patch är den sista levande brittiske soldaten från Första Världskriget. Under förra veckan besökte han skyttegravarna vid Passchendaele där han kämpade för drygt 90 år sedan. Hans berättelser beskriver hur meningslöst kriget var.
”From the time I went to France – the second week in June 1917 – until I left 23rd December 1917, injured by shellfire, I never had a bath. I never had any clean clothes. And when we got to Rouen on the way home they took every stitch of clothing off us: vest, shirt, pants, everything and they burnt it all. It was the only way to get rid of the lice. For each lousy louse, he had his own particular bite, and his own itch and he’d drive you mad. We used to turn our vests inside out to get a little relief. And you’d go down all the seams, if you dared show a light, with a candle, and burn them out. And those little devils who’d laid their eggs in the seam, you’d turn your vest inside out and tomorrow you’d be just as lousy as you were today. And that was the trenches”.”If any man tells you he went into the front line and he wasn’t scared – he’s a liar. You were scared from the moment you got there. You never knew. I mean, in the trench you were all right. If you kept down, a sniper couldn’t get you. But you never knew if the artillery had a shell that burst above you and you caught the shrapnel. That was it”.”‘E’ company were about a thousand strong. We had an officer we didn’t like. He used to take us out route marches. We didn’t like it. That afternoon he wanted the ‘E’ company on parade for bayonet practice. The war had been over for months. The sergeant major opened the door. Somebody threw a boot at him. He went back, reported it.
The officer came and they told him flat that they weren’t going out on parade. Well, he went back to the company office and about thirty of the men followed him and they asked for him. He came out, he pulled his revolver out and he clicked the hammer back. Nobody said anything. We had all been on the range. I was on fatigue that morning so I wasn’t on parade. Nobody said anything.
They all went back to their huts and they rounded up what ammunition they could and went back and they asked for the officer again. He was a captain, risen from the ranks. He came out and he clicked the hammer back on his revolver. He said, ‘The first man who says he is not going on parade, I’ll shoot him.’ No sooner had he said that, when thirty bolts went back and somebody shouted, ‘Now shoot you bugger if you like.’ He threw the revolver down, disappeared. We were all run up for a mutiny.
We had a brigadier come over from the mainland to hear the officer’s side of it. Then he said, ‘I want to hear the men.’ Twenty or thirty of the men went behind a screen and they told him. They said, ‘We don’t want bayonet practice. We’ve had the real bloody thing. Some of us are wounded by bayonets.’ The outcome was that there were no parades except just to clear the camp, just fatigues. The officer was moved to a different command. We never saw him again. It’s a damn good job we didn’t”.
”It wasn’t worth it. No war is worth it. No war is worth the loss of a couple of lives let alone thousands. T’isn’t worth it … the First World War, if you boil it down, what was it? Nothing but a family row. That’s what caused it. The Second World War – Hitler wanted to govern Europe, nothing to it. I would have taken the Kaiser, his son, Hitler and the people on his side … and bloody shot them. Out the way and saved millions of lives. T’isn’t worth it”.