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The Last Fighting Tommy: The Life of Harry Patch, Last Veteran of the Trenches, 1898-2009 [Kindle Edition]

Richard van Emden , Harry Patch
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (185 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Harry Patch, the last British soldier alive to have fought in the trenches of the First World War, is one of very few people who can directly recall the horror of that conflict.

Harry vividly remembers his childhood in the Somerset countryside of Edwardian England. He left school in 1913 to become an apprentice plumber but three years later was conscripted, serving as a machine gunner in the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry. Fighting in the mud and trenches during the Battle of Passchendaele, he saw a great many of his comrades die, and in one dreadful moment the shell that wounded him kill his three closest friends. In vivid detail he describes daily life in the trenches, the terror of being under intense artillery fire, and the fear of going over the top. Then, after the Armistice, the soldiers' frustration at not being quickly demobbed led to a mutiny in which Harry was soon caught up.

The Second World War saw Harry in action on the home front as a fire-fighter during the bombing of Bath. He also warmly describes his friendship with American GIs preparing to go to France, and, years later, his tears when he saw their graves.

Late in life Harry achieved fame, meeting the Queen and taking part in the BBC documentary The Last Tommies, finally shaking hands with a German veteran of the artillery and speaking out frankly to Prime Minister Tony Blair about the soldiers shot for cowardice in the First World War.

The Last Fighting Tommy is the story of an ordinary man's extraordinary life.

Please note eBook edition does not the contain the images included in original print edition.

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How small it made me feel to witness the quiet dignity and magnanimity of this truly heroic, very ordinary but extraordinary man. He was not unique among millions of his comrades who endured that prolonged and supreme test of nerve and courage. But, uniquely, as the last survivor, he embodies them all. (Neil Hamilton, Sunday Express)

An 'extraordinary autobiography....a moving, non-sentimental account by the very last witness of a devastating four years in Britain's history. (Val Hennessy, Daily Mail)

Patch's voice sounds clearly in these pages, bringing it fleetingly and touchingly back to life. (Peter Parker, Daily Telegraph)


'An extraordinary biography by the very last witness of a devastating four years in British history .. 'Patch is unique - living history on legs, articulate, with wonderfully vivid recall' ' Daily Mail 'Patch was not unique among millions of his comrades who endured that prolonged and supreme test of nerve and courage. But, uniquely, as the last survivor, he embodies them all' Sunday Express 'This articulate, modest and outspoken man not only remains one of the last living links with a traumatic event that has become part of the national consciousness, but is an unassailable witness of what the war was like for those who fought in it' Daily Telegraph 'A wonderful book' Andrew Motion, Poet Laureate

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 6074 KB
  • Print Length: 257 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing; 1 edition (7 Sept. 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003FI37QI
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (185 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #30,203 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

More About the Author

Harry Patch served as a private in the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry at the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917. He was married in 1919 and had two sons. Between the wars he worked as a plumber and on building sites in the Bristol area, and when the Second World War broke out he served first as a firefighter throughout the Bath Blitz and later alongside American troops in the run-up to D-Day. In 2002 he attended the seventy-fifth anniversary of the inauguration of the Menin Gate at Ypres, and in 2005 he took part in the BBC TV documentary The Last Tommy and was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Bristol.
He died in July 2009.

Richard van Emden has interviewed over 270 veterans of the Great War and has written widely on the 1914 -18 conflict. His previous books include Britain's Last Tommies, Boy Soldiers of the Great War, All Quiet on the Home Front, Prisoners of the Kaiser and the top five best selling The Trench. He has visited the Somme and Ypres every year since 1985 and has an expert knowledge of the First World War battlefields. He lives in London.

(Photo credit: Jason Pierce-Williams)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
109 of 111 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exactly what I wished - and then some... 2 Oct. 2007
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I had seen Harry interviewed on TV, as the world suddenly became aware that the old WW1 soldiers were fading away. He stood out from the rest as being sharp, witty and engaging. I felt I could listen to him all day.
As soon as I heard this book had been printed, I rushed to get a copy and can say I was not disappointed. In fact, it is more than I expected. You expect the focus to concentrate on the Great War. that's what Harry is famous for now, after all.
What we get instead is an enlightening snapshot of Harry's life. The same sharpness and witty style that I remember from the interview, with historical notes from Richard van Emden. Not only that, the anecdotes open up with such lovely detail the little everyday things of the various time periods, that people always take for granted. From early 1900s youth to 1920s and beyond.
My family lost 3 members at Paschendaele, my Taid (grandad) was also a machine gunner there. This helps me get closer to people I never knew. To understand more what their lives were like. It makes it more important I travel to honour their graves. For that alone, I can only thank Harry.

In a world where 'celebrity' nonentities and overpampered, overpaid so-called icons write their life stories after a single 'event' or having scored a goal for England at 17, this is a refreshing change. I read it feeling priveliged to have been shown a part of Harry Patch's life and leave it feeling nothing but warmth for the man.

The best literary purchase I have made for many years. Not bad for 109!
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96 of 98 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly remarkable biography. 22 Sept. 2007
I have read most of Richard Van Emden's books on the great war but this is surely my favourite. If you are expecting a book solely about the horrors of trench warfare you will be disappointed, what you get instead is one mans perspective of life over the last century and it is truly a wonderful read. Harry Patch is by standards "an ordinary man" but he is remarkably honest in this book, even recalling what must be truly awful to have to remember. I read this book in two sittings and was very moved by the narrative. I suppose because of the fact that when Harry Patch is gone the last link to the trenches dies as well and then it is truly history. As a biography and a perspective on twentieth century history from a man at our own level this is a must read.
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113 of 117 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic, 29 Aug. 2007
By R. Reed
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The Last Fighting Tommy is a wonderful book about a remarkable man, Harry Patch.
Harry Patch is the last remaining British soldier to survive the Western front. He is now 109 years old and 90 years ago he was sent with his best mates to fight in the mud and blood of Passchendale.
How Harry has made it to 109 is incredible, but when you read that he had an 2 inch lump of white hot shrapnel blasted into his guts, while his mates were blown up, we know are reading something very special. But this is much more than another book on WW1 trench life, this is Harry's story. There are no hero's or cowards, there is no patriotism and little bitterness. This is one mans story of how he did his duty and how awful it was.
The heartbreaking passages about his doomed Lewis gun crew, and how they found deep friendship and comradeship is beautifully told.
We also hear of his early days in rural somerset, his long and distinguished years as a master plumber/engineer, and his family life with its ups and some very big downs.
Richard Van Emden has worked with Harry over to produce a very moving and almost poetic account of the hell of 1917. It also feels right that the last word from those who took part in this war should go to the humble tommy,who in most cases were treated as nothing more than cannon fodder. This book deserves to become a classic and easily sits alongside the accounts of Graves and Sasson.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb 3 Jan. 2014
By Mike Watkinson TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have read one other of this author's eye witness books, The Soldier's War. He writes very well; importantly he writes sparingly allowing the eyewitnesses to speak. The eyewitness, in this case, is Henry Patch, the last survivor of the very many who fought on the front lines in Europe during WWI. In his last decade or so, after he finally chose to begin speaking about his experiences in The Great War, he eventually became tired of doing so, as that was all anyone seemed to want to talk to him about. Whilst that time inevitably forms the core of this book, Richard van Emden has done a superb job of writing a full biography; not simply about the 4 months he spent in the trenches, or the 2 & a half years or so between conscription & de-mob. The whole of his life, with all its ups & downs, is covered, including some very pointed thoughts on the nature of war, as well many charming & chuckle-inducing anecdotes about rural life in the first half of the 20th century. In short, I can't recommend this highly enough.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant. 8 Oct. 2007
Just so you know, this is my first ever review on, so bear with me.

I've read all of Van Emden's books, everything from Tickled To Death To Go, to Last Man Standing, up to The Last Fighting Tommy. This book is probably the most personal account on a soldier/veteran's life that have ever come out from the Great War.

For those looking for an soldier's account during his time at the Western Front, read Last Man Standing (which is a brilliant book throughout).
If you're looking for one veteran's account, his whole life, how war changed his life, collected in one book, get this one.

"When they launched the Somerset Poppy Appeal, they had a great big cannon that shot the poppies out of the muzzle. Of course everybody jumped in shock, but Harry didn't stir a muscle. He just said, 'You haven't heard the guns like I have.'"

Strongly recommended.

Also, make sure you pick up his other book, 'Famous' when it's availible for sale.
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