Thursday, July 30, 2009

The last of the last.

I completed my eight-day retreat on July 28th, which happened to be the 95th anniversary of the start of the First World War. This anniversary came just three days after the death at age 111 of Private Harry Patch, the last living veteran of the war to have fought in the trenches of the Western Front. Celebrated last year as one of Britain's last remaining veterans of the Great War, Patch died a week after fellow British veteran Henry Allingham, making 108-year-old Royal Navy veteran Claude Choules the last living person to have served in the British armed services during the war. Choules is also one of only three surviving veterans of the Great War in the world, the others being American Frank Buckles and Canadian John Babcock.

As I've noted before - in fact, as I've noted multiple times - a clear though barely perceptible shift in historical understanding occurs whenever the last living participant in (or witness to) some major event passes away. As I pray for the repose of the soul of Harry Patch, I also pray that the living will pay close attention to his story and the stories of the other Great War veterans labeled by one website as "the last of the last," a handful of survivors who lived long enough to teach the youth of the 21st century about a conflict that shaped the lives of their great-grandparents. May the living continue to learn from Harry Patch and his comrades, and may their memory be eternal. AMDG.


Post a Comment

<< Home