Page last updated at 13:05 GMT, Saturday, 10 October 2009 14:05 UK

Memorial service for WWI veteran

Harry Patch
Harry Patch was the oldest man in Europe when he died aged 111

A service to commemorate the life of the longest surviving soldier of World War I has taken place in Cornwall.

Harry Patch, who died in Somerset in July at the age of 111, served in the trenches in Ypres in 1917 as part of the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry.

The ex-machine-gunner, who was wounded by a German shell, bequeathed his medals to the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry Regimental Museum in Bodmin.

The service was held at St Petroc's church in Bodmin at midday.

The event, attended by General Sir Jack Deverell who served with the Somerset and Cornwall Light Infantry, and the Lord Lieutenants of Cornwall and Somerset, also commemorated the lives of thousands of soldiers from Mr Patch's regiment who died in the trenches.

Ultimate sacrifice

The Battle of Passchendaele in which Mr Patch fought lasted less than four months but in that time there were a 325,000 Allied and 260,000 German casualties.

The region in Belgium experienced the heaviest rain for 30 years which led to the battle becoming infamous for its muddy conditions.

Constant shelling had churned clay soil and smashed drains and the mud was so deep that both men and horses drowned.

The memorial service was conducted by the Reverend Canon Graham Minors who is also honorary chaplain for "The Rifles".

His passing marked the end of an era and the nation remembered a generation of young men who made the ultimate sacrifice
Order of Service

The order of service said it was "fitting that the town of Bodmin remembers those men of the county regiment who fought so gallantly in The Great War and in particular those who paid the ultimate sacrifice".

It said: "Harry Patch was a man of peace. By virtue of his great age, he became a spokesman for those who fell in Flanders Fields.

"His passing marked the end of an era and the nation remembered a generation of young men who made the ultimate sacrifice.

"The Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry were at the forefront of many battles and 255 officers and 4,027 men gave up their lives that we may enjoy the freedom we now take for granted."

A collection was taken at the end of the service in aid of the restoration of the Regimental Chapel in St Petroc's and on behalf of The Army Benevolent Fund.



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