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Page last updated at 07:23 GMT, Thursday, 6 August 2009 08:23 UK
Thought for the Day: Harry Patch

By Neville Boundy
BBC Bristol Thought for the Day contributor

Harry Patch photographed by Don McCullin
'During Harry's funeral no doubt there will be moments of silence'

Today, 6 August 2009, the very last survivor from the trench warfare of the First World War will be laid to rest in what will be as splendid and moving as any funeral can be.

Although Harry Patch kept his painful silence about his terrible actual experiences until he was 100 years old, all along he maintained the fiercest indignation.

He wrote in his autobiography: "The politicians who took us to war should have been given the guns and told the settle the differences themselves, instead of organizing nothing better than legalized mass murder."

In the nursing home where he spent his final years, the light outside his room prompted nightmares about the moment when his friends were killed.


Maybe it's no accident that 6 August has been chosen for Harry's funeral.

In both western and eastern Christianity, 6 August is an important feast day.

We're reminded that Jesus of Nazareth went up a high mountain and was brightly transfigured "shining, exceeding white"- so dazzling that his three companions had to hide their faces, and two were rendered speechless.

That brilliance foreshadowed the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

It was on 6 August in 1945 the Allies dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. In an instant 60,000 were killed, the city utterly destroyed.

It's been alleged by some that the Japanese never surrender, but because the brightness of the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki outshone the "splendour" of the emperor, he was able to do the unthinkable, and surrender.

During Harry's funeral no doubt there will be moments of silence. Everyone will use it in their own way.

Maybe holding in uneasy tension the light in the corridor, the blast over Hiroshima and the Transfiguration is one way of remembering and honouring Harry Patch, his life, his pacifism.

You can watch the award-winning documentary, A Poem for Harry, on BBC Two at 7.30pm on Thursday, and for the following six days on the BBC iPlayer.

Profile: Neville Boundy
27 Feb 09 |  TV & Radio


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