Harry Patch was past his 100th birthday before he began speaking out about the horrors he endured as a machine gunner in Flanders in World War I, when he survived the fighting at Ypres that was among the bloodiest in a war that took the lives of nearly 900,000 men from Britain and its colonies.
When Mr. Patch finally broke 80 years of silence, in the final decade of a life that was honored by thousands of mourners who gathered at his funeral on Thursday in this quiet cathedral town set in rolling green hills 140 miles west of London, his message was not the traditional story of valor and patriotism under fire. Rather, he took as his central themes the futility of war and the common humanity of soldiers who meet as enemies on the battlefield.
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