Saturday, July 25, 2009

last british world war one veteran dies

Harry Patch, the last living British soldier from World War I, has died at age 111. There is apparently one living US soldier, Frank Buckles, who is 108 and lives in West Virginia. I am not sure about other countries. People like this are extreme cases, but it does serve to bring home the extraordinary losses of war. Patch participated in several major battles, so it is likely that several of his comrades died over 90 years ago. No Churchill, no Beatles, no Princess Diana; nothing. This is not to say that the cause wasn't worth it, only that there are not many human activities which are paid for by people who haven't really started living yet: this one is.

On a rather more trivial note, it makes me feel older, too. When I was a child anyone over 40 seemed to be a World War II veteran, and World War I veterans were younger, sometimes quite a bit younger, than veterans of the second war are now. My grandfather was actually too old, or in any event too infirm, to serve in it. We found a letter that he wrote to his brother, who did serve, urging him in the polite language of the era to be careful what women he hung out with. That was my grandfather: always offering advice, some solicited, some not. Now I write a blog and offer opinions that some people want, and some don't. Some things never change.


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