On 11 November 1920, huge crowds lined the streets of London for the funeral of the Unknown Warrior. As the cortege was drawn on a gun carriage from the Cenotaph to Westminster Abbey, the King and Ministers of State followed silently behind. The modern world had tilted on its axis, and it had been saved. Remembrance Day was born, the acknowledgement of the great sacrifice made by a whole generation of British men and women.
Now, a century later, Harry Patch, the last British veteran who saw active service, has died. Our link with the First World War is broken.
Harry Patch was born in 1898 and was conscripted in 1916. He fought as an assistant gunner at the Battle of Passchendaele and in September 1917 was injured by a shell that killed three of his comrades. After the war, Patch returned to work as a plumber, an industry he remained in until his retirement.
The First World War was fought not by a professional army but by ordinary civilians like Patch, who epitomised Edwardian Britain and the sense, now lost, of what Britain stood for and why it was worth fighting for. The Last Veteran tells Patch's story, and explores the meaning of the war to the generations that have followed. Peter Parker's biography is a moving tribute to the last of a remarkable generation.