Another sad posting. A couple of weeks ago I listed a dozen of the books I read last year that I really enjoyed. One was Kitchener’s Last Volunteer, about Henry Allingham, the oldest surviving British First World War veterans. I remarked that he was one of just three. Well, now he is one of only two. Bill Stone (born 1900) died a couple of days ago.
That leaves Henry Allingham (born 1896) and Harry Patch (born 1898). Henry Allingham joined the Royal Naval Air Service and Harry Patch was a private in the infantry. As far as I know, he is the last man left alive, in any country, who fought in the trenches of the Western Front. When the last of these gentlemen dies, and sadly that day will probably not be long in coming, there will be a memorial service, attended by the Royal family, the government, service chiefs, foreign ambassadors etc, to commemorate ALL the men who fought in that war, and the million British servicemen who died in it. Then the first of, we hope, only two world wars will pass into history, to be remembered only through books, photographs, newsreels and preserved reminiscences – but never, one trusts, to be forgotten. .
“The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of civilization in any country. A calm and dispassionate recognition of the rights of the accused against the state, and even of convicted criminals against the state, a constant heart-searching by all charged with the duty of punishment, a desire and eagerness to rehabilitate in the world of industry all those who have paid their dues in the hard coinage of punishment, tireless efforts towards the discovery of regenerating processes, and an unfaltering faith that there is a treasure, if you can only find it, in the heart of every man – these are the things which in the treatment of crime and criminals mark and measure the stored-up strength of a nation, and are the sign and proof of the living virtue in it.”
Winston Churchill to the House of Commons, 20th July, 1910