Britain’s Last Veteran of the WWI Trenches

ABC's Maeva Bambuck reports from London:

Britain paid its last respects today to one of its last remaining British World War I veterans, Harry Patch. Thousands lined the streets of Wells, Somerset, to see Patch’s coffin driven to Wells Cathedral, where a funeral service was being held in front of over 1000 mourners and well-wishers. Patch, who died on July 25th at the age of 111, did not want a state funeral, true to his simple ways. He was a plumber who found himself in the light infantry at the beginning of the war, and later fought in some of the bloodiest trenches, including in the battle of Ypres. Patch defended his country until a piece of shrapnel lodged itself in his groin in 1917.

The outpour of sympathy from Britons today was truly inspiring. The Cathedral was jammed packed by mourners who applied for tickets to attend the funeral service, before tickets ran out. “I wanted to keep my son's interest alive,” Andy Tams, from Staffordshire, said of bringing his six-year-old along. "Harry Patch represented the end of an era. It is part of the UK that is now lost."

The Duchess of Cornwall and the chief of Britain’s armies, General Sir Richard Dannatt, were present among those wishing to show their gratitude. A passage of Patch’s book “The Last Fighting Tommy,” was read during the service. "Today, above all else, we give thanks for the life of a brave and inspirational man whose message of reconciliation and peace has reached and touched so many," General Sir Dannatt told The Independent.

On Wednesday, The band Radiohead released a song composed in Patch’s honor, over the internet. The proceeds of 'Harry Patch (In Memory Of)' will benefit the Royal British Legion, a charity caring for ex British servicemen. “Harry loved music,” Patch’s grandson, Roger Patch, told NME magazine “and would be 100 per cent behind Radiohead in raising awareness of the suffering of conflict -- not least the futility of it -- in a way that can also benefit the Legion.”

Only three WWI veterans are still alive. 108-year-old Frank Buckles, who lives in Charlestown, WV, 109-year-old Canadian John Babcock, who lives in Spokane, WA, and 108-year-old Englishman Claude Choules, an Englishman living in Perth, Australia.

In Wells, the cathedral bell tolled 111 times. Once for every year of Harry Patch’s life.

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