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Press pays tribute to last surviving WWI soldier

A life-sized portrait of the last surviving British soldier to have fought in the trenches of World War I has been commissioned by the Western Daily Press.

It was unveiled to honour the last of a generation of men who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Harry Patch, (109), who was born near Bath, on June 17, 1898, was called up in October 1916, to serve as a private in the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry.

He fought in the Battle of Passchendaele, serving in a Lewis gun team, and was seriously wounded by shrapnel from a shell which killed his three closest friends in September 1917.

He did not talk about the war for 80 years, but has since contributed to war documentaries, and returned to Belgium for the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele.

  • Veteran Harry Patch with artist Bill Leyshon and WDP editor Andy Wright.
  • His memoirs of life, The Last Fighting Tommy, were published in August this year, and he had previously met Tony Blair to petition on behalf of the name of deserters shot for cowardice in World War I.

    The Western Daily Press commissioned the portrait from Somerset artist Bill Leyshon.

    It will be displayed in the Great Hall of the Somerset County Museum in Taunton in the run-up to Remembrance Day.

    Editor Andy Wright said: “We were delighted to honour such a brave and remarkable man. In conversation with him, what really comes through is his humility. He speaks such common sense, a real gentleman and an icon of his generation.”

    Harry was delighted by the portrait and said: “There wouldn’t be any war if the politicians understood what it was like – but unless you have been there yourself, you never will. When you go over the top, you are scared absolutely. If people say they are not, they are damn liars.”