Page last updated at 13:45 GMT, Monday, 9 March 2009

WWI veteran receives French award

Mr Patch gave a speech after he received the award

Harry Patch, the last surviving British veteran of the trenches of World War I, has been made an Officer of the French Legion of Honour.

The 110-year-old, who returned to Bath in 1918, was awarded the medal by the French Ambassador at his nursing home in Wells, Somerset.

The British veteran already received the Chevalier of the Order award in 1998.

Receiving the award, Mr Patch said it was a great honour.

'Greatly appreciated'

He said he was delighted to be appointed a Knight of the Legion of Honour 10 years ago, along with 350 other veterans from World War I.

When I eventually rejoin my mates it [the medal] will be displayed in my regimental museum as a permanent reminder of the kindness of the people of France
Harry Patch

At the ceremony, he said: "Now, but two of us remain at our post and the people of France, through their president, have honoured us once more by appointing us as Officers of the Legion of Honour.

"Ambassador, I greatly appreciate the way your people respect the memory of those who fell, irrespective of the uniform they wore.

"I will wear this medal with great pride and when I eventually rejoin my mates it will be displayed in my regimental museum as a permanent reminder of the kindness of the people of France."

Mr Patch, who grew up in Coombe Down, near Bath, never spoke in public about World War I until he turned 100.

Veterans Minister Kevan Jones said the UK owed a great deal to the men and women like Mr Patch.

"He served with such distinction during wars to protect our liberty.

"I welcome this award which pays tribute to him for the huge contribution he has made. We are justly proud of his service and thank the French government for this honour," he added.



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