When canvassing the local businesses for information about characters from the time of the First World War for our Ribbon of Remembrance, a major surprise came from Wendy, shop manager at the Castle Hill Bookshop. “You know what my name is?!” was her reply to the enquiry. Wendy Patch is the granddaughter of Harry Patch, the ‘Last Fighting Tommy’.
Henry John Patch died on 25th July 2009, aged 111 years, having attained a level of celebrity that he can never have imagined at the time when he was No 2 on a Lewis gun team in the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry. Harry was an apprentice plumber before he was conscripted into the army at the age of 18. He saw action at the Third Battle of Ypres, though his war came to an end on 22nd September 1917 following a German shell burst which killed three of his fellow Lewis gunners. Harry’s wound saw him hospitalised for 12 months. The Armistice came about while he was convalescing on the Isle of Wight.
Following the war, Harry married Ada Billington, had two sons Denis and Roy and returned to work as a plumber.
Harry only spoke about the war in the latter part of his life and when he did it was without any animosity towards the Germans who faced him across No-man’s Land. As one of the few Great War veterans who survived into the 21st century, Harry was invited to Buckingham Palace and 10 Downing Street. He was awarded an honorary degree by Bristol University in 2004, the Legion d’Honneur by the French government and made a Knight of the Order of Leopold by King Albert II of Belgium.
Explore more memories from the ribbon
Sergeant William James Denton Milson 7813 D.C.M. 2nd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment. This story was submitted by Andrew Hume Voegeli. Serjeant Milson was the brother of his maternal grandmother Lily Muriel Boyes (nee Milson) born in Beverley in 1896. William James Denton Milson was born on the 1st of February 1890 in the Parish of St Mary’s Beverley Yorkshire. He was the eldest of 6 children, his father was William Carr Milson and his mother was Ann Maria Milson, nee Cooper. His father was a boot maker but did serve in several regiments including the Yorkshire Regiment. Young William enlisted in the Yorkshire Regiment aged 14 years and 7 months on the 24th of August 1904 as a drummer boy. He was 4 feet 11 inches tall, had a fair complexion, grey eyes and light brown hair. He was working as a message boy at that time. Before the outbreak of World War 1 he served in India. On the 6th of October 1914 he landed at Zeebrugge and took part in the 1st Battle of Ypres. By 1915 his leadership skills led to his promotion to Serjeant. On the 15th of March 1915 he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (D.C.M.) for leading a rescue party for men trapped under continuous sniper fire. The Yorkshire regiment gazette recorded this as follows: “D.C.M.s have been awarded to Sergt Milsom, Cpl Wilson and Pte Howard for their work when the Boche’s mine was exploded at Givenchy on the 29th of November. The…
Submitted by Michael Kent. Joseph Hatton was my dad. I only recently learnt about his early life. Dad never spoke about the First World War. He was born 20 February 1896 in Bradford and had three sisters and two brothers. My dad never told me that grandad was a train driver in the 1890’s, or that I had a half brother born in 1915, that he lost his father in 1919 and his wife, when he was in his early twenties. I do not know what happened or where he went from 1922 until 1950 when he was living in London where I was born thirty years later, in 1952. 10724 Private Joseph Hatton was recruited in Yorkshire in August 1914 and served in the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment (3rd West Riding) as a Reserve. After training in England he was sent to the Western Front in 1915. In May of that year he was poisoned by gas. My dad didn’t die, unlike so many around him who suffered this cruel death, but he was evacuated via Boulogne to Manchester Western General Hospital to recover. He was posted again in December 1915. In March 1916 he was then posted to the 9th Battalion and embarked for France again in April. He had a few days leave in Etaples and then returned to the front. He was wounded in July 1916 by a shell explosion killing many men. Dad lost his hand. He was put on a train back to England….
Vicky Hurwood provided this information about her grandfather, George Ernest Hurwood. He was born on 19 November at Scorton 1880 to Richard and Mary Hurwood. He worked for the Post Office with his father. When the war broke out George would enlist as a Sapper in the Royal Engineers, his Regimental Number being 67828. His medal card gives his ‘Theatre of War’ as France where he had arrived on the 7th October 1915. He was awarded the 1915 Star, which means he enlisted before conscription was introduced, along with the British War medal and Victory medal. George made and engraved match box covers recording Ypres 31/7/17 and Arras 9/4/17 which Vicky still has at home. He survived the war and is commemorated on a list at the Scorton War Memorial Institute. He ended the war as a Sergeant and from his demobilisation on the 30th June 1919 became a Class Z Reserve.