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Remembered Today:

Harry Patch date wounded


Skipman

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Spartacus Educational tells us that Harry Patch was wounded on the 21st of September 1917

" On 21st September, 1917, a shell hit Patch's Lewis Gun. "The shell that got us was what we called a whizz-bang which burst amongst us. The force of it threw me to the floor, but I didn't realise I'd been hit for a few minutes. The burning hot metal knocks the pain out of you at first but I soon saw blood, so I put a field dressing on it.... I didn't know what had happened to the others at first, but I was told later that I had lost three of my mates. That shell killed Numbers Three, Four and Five. We were a little team together, and those men who were carrying the ammunition were blown to pieces. I reacted very badly. It was like losing a part of my life. It upset me more than anything. We had only been together four months, but with hell going on around us, it seemed like a lifetime." Patch later recalled: "I'd got this piece of shrapnel right in the groin. It was about two inches long, half an inch thick, with a jagged edge. I was taken to a dressing station and I lay there all that night and the next day, until the evening." The shrapnel was removed without anaesthetic. "Four fellows grabbed me - one on each arm and one on each leg - and I can feel that bloody knife even now, cutting out that shrapnel." Patch was taken to a hospital ship that took him to Southampton. The wound was so serious that he was never sent back to the Western Front. "

7th DCLI Battalion Diary Naval & Military Archive

21/9/1917 Soult Camp B.23.a.3.2. Weather fine. Battn still at short notice to move. Enemy HV? guns shelling neighbourhood of camp at intervals during the day but no hits in our camp.

22/9/1917 Soult Camp B.23.a.3.2. Weather fine. Enemy Gotha aeroplanes bombed in neighbourhood of Camp and Dawson's Corner Elverdinghe ???? and on two occasions. About 20 bombs dropped near camp.

23/9/1917 Front Line Bn HQ U.23.d.7.0. Weather fine. Enemy aeroplanes bombed in neighbourhood of camp about 3.30 pm. Battn relieved 6th KSLI and 12th KRR in front line during the night. Leaving camp at 7 pm. A thick mist prevailed from 10 pm onwards and hindered the relief. Very little enemy shelling. Casualties 2/Lt G Parkes slightly gassed. 3 OR killed . 4 OR wounded


It looks, from the war diary, more likely that this happened on the 23rd of September 1917, but I can't see three men killed in the 7th battalion on the 23rd September 1917. Geoff's Engine

What do you reckon?

Mike

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Hi Mike,

Whilst not trying to dodge the question, my feeling is that whilst no one who fought in the conflict should be treated differently, but as the "Last Tommy" Harry is symbolic of all those that served, and it is in some ways especially important not to create a record that can not be substantiated by firm evidence, if it conflicts with his recollections.

Within that context, I have merely presented, as the attached word document, a copy of the results of a search of the CWGC website, using the search criterion for men that died in September 1917 listed as serving with the 7th Bn DCLI/SLI, on which I have insufficient knowledge to comment further.

September1917.docx

Regards

Chris

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Thanks Chris. I would like to pin down the exact date if possible. I'm interested in a number of "celebrities" of WW1 and where they were in relation to the men I am researching. An old man can be forgiven for getting his dates wrong 80 years after the event.

Mike

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In The Last Fighting Tommy Richard van Emden is not able to state a definite date.

"For Harry, 22 September is the day he remembers as the day he lost his machine-gun team and he was badly wounded by shrapnel. Given the passage of nearly ninety years and the effect of his wound, the actual events are now a little opaque."

After writing about events from the 19th September to the late evening of the 23rd, and after quoting from the War Diary for the evening of the 23rd, Richard finishes with

"It is quite possible that Harry's Lewis gun team were among those killed or wounded that evening."

(The 23rd)

CGM

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Thanks CGM. That's one of Richard's books I have yet to read. I'm not getting at anyone, just, as said, interested where some of these now famous people were on certain dates, in relation to where the men I am researching were. Obviously an exact date would be helpful to me. It seems that may not be possible now in the case of Harry Patch. I will have to reconsider how useful Spartacus Educational is to me now. I had always thought it very reliable.

Cheers Mike

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That's an interesting project, Mike.

It's just part of my interesting project that has grown many arms and legs. I'm sure it would be of interest to people from Aberfeldy that Harry Patch, or Arnold Ridley etc went over the top, or were wounded X number of yards away from a man who lived in their street? It's just something I look at now and again, and I was surprised that Spartacus Educational might publish the 21st September 1917 as a definite date of wounding for Harry Patch, when, clearly, it is not. I had always thought this website very reliable.

Cheers Mike

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Deleted my last post, will try again and be more accurate.

Harry said that the day he was wounded and his 3 mates were killed was his personal remembrance day. I doubt he would have got it wrong. I think he is on various film clips on youtube stating that, with not a shadow of doubt in his mind.

Cheers,

Mike

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Thanks David, that's interesting.

Medaler, thanks also. I'm not doubting Harry Patch. There is however something not quite right about the date or unit, wouldn't you agree? Maybe Richard Van Emden can clear up the confusion at some point.

Mike

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One of those ones where the memory doesn't match the incident, if he'd even given the name of one of his mates who were killed to Richard van Emden, I'm sure he'd have followed it up and got the exact date but that seems not to have happened.

Sam

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One of those ones where the memory doesn't match the incident, if he'd even given the name of one of his mates who were killed to Richard van Emden, I'm sure he'd have followed it up and got the exact date but that seems not to have happened.

Sam

Apparently he could not remember their names, or that is what he always said. In my own way, I think he knew very well who they were and just refused to bring their names into the public domain. I am sure he had his reasons for doing that, and we should respect them.

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and just refused to bring their names into the public domain. I am sure he had his reasons for doing that, and we should respect them.

I think we very much respect his reasons for doing so. Perhaps the relatives of the men would like to know? Anyway, I am purely interested in the date of the event, and it doesn't look like it took place on the 21st September 1917?

Mike

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Here he is confirming his view that it was the 22nd - at 22:30 hrs. At 4.40 on the video.

https://uk.search.yahoo.com/search?fr=mcafee&type=B111GB105D20150324&p=harry+patch+youtube

Cheers,

Mike

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Thanks for that Mike. I'm a bit deaf and have trouble hearing that clip, but will listen carefully later. The 22nd makes sense if this relief took place on the night of the 22/23rd " Battn relieved 6th KSLI and 12th KRR in front line during the night. Leaving camp at 7 pm. A thick mist prevailed from 10 pm onwards and hindered the relief. Very little enemy shelling. Casualties 2/Lt G Parkes slightly gassed. 3 OR killed . 4 OR wounded " CWGC records 3 killed in the 7th battalion this date.

Cheers Mike

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I remembered researching this myself a few years ago, just going on the evidence of what he had said and the casualty figures. It seemed to me easy enough to work out who his mates might have been using SDGW and CWGC. The problem is that I never wrote any of it down at the time and did not have a subscription to ancestry at the time to look for documents. I did actually think of trying to pass the list of names to Mr Van Emden, because Harry was still alive at the time. I wondered if providing a list of names might jog his memory. Unfortunately, I could not find any means of contacting him at the time.

I think I then thought better of the whole enterprise and decided that I was just being foolish. I frequently wonder if I am still being foolish now!

The possibilities from GWGC were:

Alfred Moyses - 28328

Ernest Cullingford - 28783

James Forest - 34500

John Lavers - 12984

SDGW adds:

Alfred Moyses - Killed in Action - so likely

Ernest Cullingford - Killed in Action - so likely

James Forest - Killed in Action - so likely

John Lavers - Died of wounnds - so unlikely to be him

On the film clip Harry states that no trace of any of his mates was ever found. If he genuinely believed that, then he went to his own grave not knowing that only Moyses is named on the Tyne Cot memorial and that the others have graves. Cullingford and Forest at Cement House Cemetery and Lavers at Trois Arbres Cemetery Steenwerck.

To be honest, I could not believe that nobody else had thought to look them up whilst Harry was still alive.

Warmest regards,

Mike

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It is a lot easier to search the war diaries now they are online. Again the names are not necessary for my purposes, but it looks like the night of the 22/23rd is the right date. Here's to them all anyway :poppy:

Mike

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Annoyingly, whilst there is a casualty list for September 1917 in the war diary http://interactive.ancestry.co.uk/60779/43849_2126_0-00000?backurl=http%3a%2f%2fsearch.ancestry.co.uk%2fsearch%2fdb.aspx%3fdbid%3d60779%26path%3d&ssrc=&backlabel=ReturnBrowsing#?imageId=43849_2126_0-00318 for some reason Harry doesn't seem to appear on it. Neither does he seem to be on the lists for August or October 1917.

Attached is the September list which I've sorted by date, then by surname.

7 DCLI Casualty List Sept 1917.pdf

Regards

Chris

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The subject has been discussed before.

My recollection is that Harry Patch mentioned a date when the mates were killed and, also, gave some information about the blokes - the name of one, where another came from, etc. As I recall, we were not able to pinpoint either the date or, indeed, any men fitting Harry's description who were killed around that time. As someone has said, he was remembering as best he could very many years after the event but it does seem a shame that an old man's recollections are treated as absolute fact, rather than as his personal remembrance.

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