Saturday, 25 July 2009

War.. what is it good for?

Why is it, we never listen to people who know better?

A strange thing happened to me this morning. I was watching a repeat programme, featuring the "Last Tommy" - Harry Patch, 111 years old. As the last living British person ever to have served in the First World War, he was one of a kind. I had seen this programme before and it had a great impact on me then, as well. You follow this old man back to the battlefield, where he meets his former enemy, tells us how he got injured - and lost his friends.

In the programme, this frail old man goes to meet and shake hands with a German ex soldier. In the Battle of Passchendale, at Ypres, 1917, more than 70,000 British soldiers died. Henry was one of the soldiers in this battle and he had always wanted to come to terms with this part of his life. Now he told this, equally old and frail German man that he didn't hold any grudge against him anymore. They shook hands and smiled to each other. Harry told us to remember the Germans just as we remember our own.

"No." he said, with his weak, hoarse voice, whilst looking out over the war graves. "No, no, no." "Such a waste."

"All wars end round a table. Why not begin wars round the same table? Why waste so many lives before we get to that table? Such a waste."

When watching this today, to the soundtrack of Schindler's List, tears fell down my cheeks. They fell last time I watched it and they fell now. It is such a moving scene and I just couldn't help it.

But this time, a message came through on my phone, saying "Breaking BBC news: Harry Patch dies, 111 years old." This, whilst I was still watching the programme. Strange timing. Strange feeling. Such a loss.

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