Page last updated at 09:47 GMT, Tuesday, 17 June 2008 10:47 UK

WWI veteran marks 110th birthday

A big party is planned for Mr Patch at the care home where he lives

The oldest surviving veteran of World War I's trench warfare is celebrating his 110th birthday.

Harry Patch, who was born in Combe Down, Somerset, was a plumber by trade before being called up. He was a private at the Battle of Passchendaele.

A party is planned at the care home in Wells, where he now lives.

Mr Patch attributes his long life to clean living, avoiding what he describes as the "three sins" of smoking, drinking and gambling.

"For many years in Shropshire, I lived quite close to the Welsh mountains," he said.

"Fresh air, no petrol and no cars, that's the secret."

'Not warlike'

After the war, Mr Patch was married in Wellington, Shropshire, in 1919.

He returned to work as a plumber and was a key player in the construction of the Wills Memorial Building in Bristol.

In 1999 he received the Legion D'Honneur medal awarded by the French government to some 350 surviving WWI veterans who fought on the Western Front.

His life as a "Tommy" has been well-documented in books and films.

He is the second oldest UK survivor from World War I. The oldest is 112-year-old Henry Allingham, who fought in the Battle of Jutland rather than in the trenches like Mr Patch.

In March this year, poet laureate Andrew Motion composed a poem about Mr Patch.

The Five Acts of Harry Patch was first read at a special event at the Bishop's Palace in Wells where it was introduced by the Prince of Wales.

In his autobiography, The Last Fighting Tommy, he spoke of his aversion to war.

"Somerset people are not warlike - it is not something in our make-up," he wrote.

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