Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Last Tommy part II

The second and last part of The Last Tommy was on tonight. It dealt with 1916 to 1919. Most of tonights show focused on Harry Patch as he journeyed back to Belgium to visit the battlefields of Passchendaele where on September 22nd 1916 at 10:30pm three of his close friends were killed and he was injured when a rocket landed among them. That is his remembrance day.

On the 87th anniversary Harry met his first German since the war. A veteran who lived in Alsace Lorraine, he served in an artillery unit that was fighting in the same area as Harry. That said the chances of him actually having fired the rocket that killed Harrys friends would be pretty remote. The two shook hands and said they didn't hold grudges. I couldn't help but wonder how many German veterans are left, especially when you consider how many of them were drafted into the volksstrum at the end of World War II and sent to face the Russians. (I found this page on wikipedia, its marked for deletion and is already out of date)

In the end Harry asked to visit the memorial to his battalion near the point where his friends died. This was the most touching moment of the episode as he placed a poppy wreath and card on the memorial.

The other veterans are interviewed as well. Discussing their experiences of being gassed, serving on ships that sent planes to fight Zeppelins. They also discussed being demobbed, small mutinies as they waited to go home and the uncertainty they felt when the war was over.

When they finished filming the documentary at the end of 2004 there were only 4 Tommies left of the 27 alive at the start in 2003. Harry Patch and Alfred Anderson were the only two well enough to take part in the series. Soon the last four will be gone, hopefully the world will never forget them and their comrades.

Update 21 November: Alfred Anderson has died at the age of 109.
"He was the last surviving veteran anywhere to have served in the First World War in 1914 and lived a truly remarkable life."

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