Great Western Railways Class 43 locomotive 43 172 was unveiled in a new livery at Bristol Temple Meads station on Friday 6 November in memory and entitled ‘Harry Patch – The last survivor of the trenches’
The train wrap by Swindon based designer Paul Gentleman of Paul R Gentleman Associates commemorates the sacrifices made by so many a century ago, with the locomotive name honouring the man who became known to millions up and down the country as a symbol of remembrance. Harry died at the age of 111 1 month 1 week and 1 day on 25 July 2009, Britain’s last surviving soldier of the Great War.
Harry Patch was a native of the West Country, born in 1898 at Combe Down, near Bath, the son of a stonemason. He was conscripted in October 1916 and eventually posted to the 7th Battalion, Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, serving as an assistant gunner in a Lewis Gun section. On the 22 September 1917, Harry was badly injured when a shell exploded overhead, killing three of his comrades.
The design incorporates the words from Laurence Binyon’s Ode to Remembrance, words which had a huge meaning for Harry. It is said that whenever he heard those words he would always remember his comrades who fell when Harry was injured, Jack, Maudy and Jilly. Their names too are remembered within the design.
Paul said: “I am absolutely thrilled to have worked with Great Western Railways to remember Harry and the fallen of the Great War in this way. It is important that we never forget the sacrifices made so that we can enjoy the freedom we have today.”
Harry’s grandson, Roger Patch unveiled the locomotive. Speaking for members of the family he said: “We are absolutely delighted that GWR have named one of their locomotives after Grandad, he would have been thrilled about it. He was a very modest, quiet man and it was incredible how so many people took him to their heart as he became a symbol of remembrance. But to us, he will always be Grandad and we are extremely proud of everything he achieved.”
The locomotive will be seen by the thousands of people who travel everyday on the Great Western main line, a fitting and poignant tribute to one man and symbol of remembrance to the many.
• Paul R Gentleman Associates have developed a reputation over the years for unique livery designs on the East Coast Main Line. Their previous Great War commemoration livery, ‘For the Fallen’, has been designated and will be preserved for the National Collection. A new Flying Scotsman livery for Virgin Trains East Coast was unveiled on 28 October.