Page last updated at 06:53 GMT, Wednesday, 29 April 2009 07:53 UK

Portrait of WWI veteran unveiled

Portrait of Harry Patch
The painting will be exhibited by the Royal Society of Portrait Painters

A portrait of one of the last surviving British veterans of WWI has been unveiled by its artist ahead of its display at a London gallery.

Peter Kuhfeld, 57, of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, painted the portrait of Harry Patch over two visits.

He said it had been a "privilege" to paint 111-year-old Mr Patch at his care home in Wells, Somerset.

Mr Patch fought in the Battle of Passchendaele, in Ypres, which claimed the lives of more than 70,000 soldiers.

Mr Kuhfield said that when he first went to Mr Patch's room he found the veteran "gazing out of the window" with his hands resting on his lap.

"He spoke about his life after the horrors of Passchendaele, of his return to England badly wounded, of 'getting back to normality', marriage, children and family life," said Mr Kuhfield.

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

He was called up in 1917 aged 18 and joined the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry before travelling to France, eager to arrive "before it would be all over".

During the fighting he was badly wounded and three of his best friends were killed when a shell exploded just yards from where he was standing.

The painting will be displayed at the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Exhibition at London's Mall Galleries from 7 May to 23 May.

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