The Last WWI Trench Warfare Vet Dies

Harry Patch:

I never knew Bob [Harry’s friend and gunner] to use that [Lewis] gun to kill. If he used that gun at all, it was about two feet off the ground and he would wound them in the legs. He wouldn’t kill them if he could help it.

[A German soldier] came to me with a rifle and a fixed bayonet. He had no ammunition, otherwise he could have shot us. He came towards us. I had to bring him down. First of all, I shot him in the right shoulder. He dropped the rifle and the bayonet. He came on. His idea, I suppose, was to kick the gun if he could into the mud, so making it useless. But anyway, he came on and for our own safety, I had to bring him down. I couldn’t kill him. He was a man I didn’t know. I didn’t know his language. I couldn’t talk to him. I shot him above the ankle, above the knee. He said something to me in German. God knows what it was. But for him the war was over.

He would be picked up by a stretcher bearer. He would have his wounds treated. He would be put into a prisoner-of-war camp. At the end of the war, he would go back to his family. Now, six weeks after that, a fellow countryman of his pulled the lever of the gun that fired the rocket that killed my three mates, and wounded me. If I had met that German soldier after my three mates had been killed, I’d have no trouble at all in killing him.

2 Comments

  1. This illustrates the problem facing officers in war. Most conscripts are decent men who don’t want to murder the enemy.
    (Kind of warms your heart, doesn’t it?)

  2. Wow, that man’s got some incredible stories indeed. There’s a lot that happens on the battlefield that nobody ever talks about later, including the “friendly fire” that’s not so friendly at all.

    If his stories ever get published into a book, I’ll be in line to read it.

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