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on 8 January 2010
an excellent book on the life of HARRY PATCH. from his childhood growing up in combe down near bath ,thru the horrors of the trenches in ww1 and his life as a plumber and living in the west country.it also includes his life as a fire fighter in bath during ww2 as well as other recollections of his later life.i would throughly recommend this book as a really good read.i read it in a couple of days, a book you will not put want to put down!!
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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 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 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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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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on 24 November 2013
I suppose i expected more on the life in the trenches and less of Harry Patch the man before /after the war.
Sorry but found this realy quite dull as a read.
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on 22 January 2008
I read and loved this book but was not going to post a review as plenty of other people had and I would only be echoing the thoughts of other readers who had given this five stars. However, Hedley's review is so weird that I feel I must write some sort of defence. It seems most strange to complain that Harry's life (including his plumbing career) is covered in detail when it is clear that the book is his life story and not just a study of his WW1 service. He only spent a few months in the trenches - this is a small percentage of his life and it seems fair to me that he is tired of talking about those few months. After all, he has had a remarkably long life that 99% of people never want to speak to him about. I thought his memories of a childhood in Edwardian Britain were fascinating and well-told. If readers are solely interested in Harry's war service then I would recommend Britain's Last Tommies or Veterans, both very good books by the same author which give this detail. However, if you want a much more rounded view on this fascinating man then I would heartily recommend this book. As for Harry's view on criteria for who should be considered "the last veteran", I would prefer to ask his view than someone who wasn't even born when that conflict ended. Surely he has earned the right to express his opinion?
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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 28 December 2013
Harry Patch, the reluctant celebrity who found fame after he attained his 100th birthday. This engaging and charming gentleman did so much more than be the last Tommy from the trenches.

Richard van Emden brings us a book which gives us the whole Harry Patch story. Harry was our last living link to World War I, although Claude Choules was the last of the last, it appears that the Australians have claimed him as he lived out his life in Fremantle, Western Australia. So Harry was truly British and his life is well documented from his childhood right through to the end in 2009. Harry was for a couple of months Britain's oldest man, surviving Henry Allingham who predeceased him as well as being one of our last WWI veterans. Like so many of his predecessors, Harry was unwilling to share his story, however, after some discussions, he recorded this book with the able assistance from van Emden who adds some links between Harry's pieces.

He was a plumber to trade who owned his own company, seemed to call a spade a spade, and worked as a firefighter in WWII as he was classed as too old to fight in 1939.

He seemed to be one of these charming elderly gentlemen who can attract the ladies with a smile but I guess when you are a centenarian, it's one of the perks. Married twice, and had a companion in the nursing home he lived in was testament to his engaging personality.

However Harry will always be inextricably linked to Passchendaele, September 1917, which he says is his Remembrance Day, when he lost his pals and was invalided out. He didn't see the point in joining up as he was not patriotic, something akin to treason in 1914, but was conscripted in 1917. He met Charles Kuentz one of Germany's last veterans at the Western front and it was this redemption, this reconciliation that brought everything full circle. One of Harry's last appearances was with Henry Allingham and Bill Stone when they were all in their wheelchairs at Remembrance Day where the atmosphere would have to have been palpable seeing those men all past their 100th birthdays paying respect when we should have been paying respect to them.

Harry comes across as a very human person with faults the same as the rest of us but read the book to find these out, it is not right to pass judgement on a man who is not here to defend himself but what I did find is a real sense of humour where Harry says at the start that if it was alright, could people please stop asking for his autograph as at his age (I think he was 108 at the time), it was not really easy to write anymore and he hoped people would understand his reasons!

Dear Harry Patch, I wish I'd met you.
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