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on 2 October 2007
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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on 22 September 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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on 29 August 2007
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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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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on 8 October 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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on 12 November 2007
Harry Patch is something of a local celebrity. And hardly surprising really, given his great age. He's now 109 years old and lives in Wells, Somerset. He was born and brought up in Combe Down in Bath, so the book is littered with local references, which made it all the more enjoyable for me.

Rather than just tell of Harry's experiences in WW1, the book is his history from the day he was born (in 1898) until the present day. He's lived through two wars and has been alive in three centuries. It's humbling to think of that.

Harry was present at the service of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday night. According to our local paper, he was going to spend yesterday (Remembrance Day) in quiet reflection at his nursing home in Wells - and who can blame him.

I really enjoyed the book. Harry is a legend.
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I read this wonderful book at one sitting. Many people will be familiar with the figure of Harry Patch from his appearance at the Festival of Remembrance, a small, frail, immensely dignified figure to whom the Queen rose to pay tribute.

However, Harry is much more than just "The Last Fighting Tommy" and this book rightfully recognises that. Harry's evocation of his Edwardian childhood is fascinating in its unexpected details - how his very ordinary family had not just a maid but a butler too - and the fighting spirit that has kept him alive to the age of 109 has been evident throughout his life. Harry survived not only two extremely personally eventful world wars but a series of personal tragedies, yet has remained a compassionate, caring man whose concern is for others.

Richard van Emden's status as an expert on WW1 has ensured that this book is as fine a piece of writing as one could imagine. A must-have for anyone interested in this period of history, be it for military or social reasons.
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on 20 March 2008
Forget all the fuss about the last living tommy bit, this is a really nice snap shot of one mans ordinary life which happened to include a spell in the trenches of WW1.

The book gives anyone of my age (42) a snapshot of what it was like to live through 2 world wars and the simple rural life that Harry has enjoyed.

His in-sites into life before the war and then during and after are both well written and interesting, he comes across as someone who was "lucky" to survive the war and is grateful for that but also a little bitter to have been put through that in the first place.

If you read autobiographies of the rich and famous this is a good book about a normal life with some lovely stories and some horrific experiences.
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on 2 November 2014
Harry Patch was a peaceable man, but one with definite opinions. He never really saw why he , or any other, was required to go to war, and his experiences in it remained too raw to talk about for most of his life. The final years of his very long life gave him the chance to confront and defeat his demons, and then to speak out as the voice of the ordinary private. This collaboration is always respectful, and puts Harry's views and memories into context. Harry himself reminds us that the war, traumatic as it was, was only one chapter in a long and interesting life. I live near Combe Down, and I found Harry's memories of his childhood there particularly interesting and entertaining, as are his jawdropping memories of working on the Wills Memorial Building in Bristol. This book is a really good read, for anyone interested in the history of the 20th century through the eyes of an extraordinary "ordinary" man
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on 10 February 2008
Sometimes, I reach the end of a book and wish that it had been much longer, and this was one of them. It was compelling.

Harry Patch's story is interesting in that he is so very ordinary yet he has achieved iconic status by virtue of his longevity. A flawed individual (stubborn, unworldly, apparently incapable of being single, unhealed rifts with his children) who represents the stoicism, courage and sacrifice of a generation. He is an everyman, a typical tommy.

I would have liked more insight into what he thinks about the changing face of the world since the Great War; the huge social changes, mass immigration to Britain, the creation of the welfare state, Mrs Thatcher, Diana, 9/11, the prospect of a black/female President. But that's probably because I loved the book so much, I want more!

I'll be buying more of v. Emden's books, that's for sure.
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