Harry Patch (In Memory Of).
Each year on this date, I post something for the anniversary of the end of the First World War, widely observed as Remembrance Day (or, in the United States, as Veterans Day). This year, Remembrance Day is a bit different than it has been in the past: with the death of Royal Navy veteran Claude Choules in May, no one who served in combat during the Great War remains alive. I've written before what the loss of "the last of the last" might mean in cultural terms, and I don't want to repeat myself by writing more on that theme in this post. Instead, I'd like to offer something different for this Remembrance Day: the Radiohead song "Harry Patch (In Memory Of)," presented above with the visual accompaniment of film footage from the Great War.
As Thom Yorke explains, "Harry Patch (In Memory Of)" was written as a tribute to the eponymous British veteran, who was the last living survivor of the trenches of the Western Front. The song was recorded shortly before Patch's death in 2009; the lyrics, which were based on comments that Patch himself made in a 2005 interview with the BBC, are presented below:
i am the only one that got through
the others died where ever they fell
it was an ambush
they came up from all sides
give your leaders each a gun and then let them fight it out themselves
i've seen devils coming up from the ground
i've seen hell upon this earth
the next will be chemical but they will never learn
As Thom Yorke commented at the time of the song's release, "It would be very easy for our generation to forget the true horror of war, without the likes of Harry to remind us. I hope we do not forget." I share this hope; may we never forget the sacrifices made by the countless millions who fought in the wars of the past century, and may their memory be eternal. AMDG.