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Last Updated: Friday, 7 March 2008, 06:52 GMT
Poem honours WWI veteran aged 109
Harry Patch and Andrew Motion
Andrew Motion composed the poem about Mr Patch
A poem has been composed by the poet laureate for the oldest surviving veteran who fought in the trenches in World War I, 109-year-old Harry Patch.

Andrew Motion composed the work under a commission from the BBC's Inside Out West programme.

The Prince of Wales introduces the piece, saying Mr Patch, "epitomizes the courage, long-sufferingness and tenacity of his generation".

The poem has five acts, each exploring different stages in Mr Patch's life.

It begins at his childhood home in Combe Down, near Bath, before moving on to the battlefields of the Western Front where Mr Patch saw action as a Lewis gunner for the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry.

It's a great honour to have a poem written for me
Harry Patch

In the final act, Mr Patch is depicted in a care home in the city of Wells, where he now lives.

Mr Motion said: "It is by some distance the most interesting of these sorts of commissions that I've done.

"I feel really quite a heavy burden on to me to pay Mr Patch due respect, to celebrate him and honour him, but at the same time not to let those feelings of something approaching awe get in the way of having a normal conversation."

Mr Patch was a plumber by trade before being called up and fighting in the Battle of Passchendaele.

His war was brought to an end when he was wounded by shrapnel from a German shell as he returned from the front line.

He is the second oldest UK survivor from World War I. The oldest is 111-year-old Henry Allingham, who fought in the Battle of Jutland rather than in the trenches like Mr Patch.

In February, he attended a special event at the Bishop's Palace in Wells to hear the poem performed for the first time.

Afterwards he told the poet laureate: "It's a great honour to have a poem written for me by you. That's all I can say."

Watch the piece on BBC One in the West at 7.30pm on Friday 7 March. Viewers outside the West can watch it on BBC iPlayer or on Sky digital satellite channel 986.



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