British WWI veteran marks 111th birthday

18th June 2009, Comments 0 comments

Harry Patch, a machine-gunner who fought in the notorious Battle of Passchendaele in Belgium, joined the British Army at age 18 and was sent to the trenches six months later.

London -- Britain's oldest surviving World War I soldier celebrated his 111th birthday Wednesday -- with a pub lunch.

Harry Patch, a machine-gunner who fought in the notorious Battle of Passchendaele in Belgium, joined the British Army at age 18 and was sent to the trenches six months later.

He spent four months fighting there in horrific conditions in 1917 before being seriously injured in a shell explosion which killed three of his friends.

Patch has received a string of honours including France's Legion d'Honneur.

His great-nephew David Tucker, 65, said friends and carers were planning a pub lunch for Patch Wednesday near his home in Somerset, southwest England, if he was well enough to attend.

He has outlived most of his close relatives, including two wives and two sons.

In recent years, Patch has become a figurehead for campaigns by the Royal British Legion, which works to help troops and veterans.

"What Harry has done in the past 10 years or so has really helped him to come to terms with what happened to him and hundreds of thousands of other people during that terrible war," Tucker said.

"He has done so much for reconciliation and in recognition of the armed forces, I think it has given him a reason to carry on."

Patch is not Britain's oldest war veteran -- that honour rests with Henry Allingham, a veteran air mechanic who is, at age 113, Europe's oldest man.

AFP/Expatica

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