Titled Harry Patch (In Memory Of), the song is a tribute to the oldest surviving Tommy who fought in World War I. Harry Patch was 111 years old when he died on July 25th, 2009. He fought in one of the grimmest battles of the war, the Battle of Passchendaele, where over 325,000 Allied casualties occurred and over, 260,000 Germans. The 99 day battle from July 31st 1917 to November 6th 1917, saw an average of 3,000 British troops killed, wounded, or captured daily. (By contrast, in Iraq, 3,650 US troops have died and approximately 26,000 have been wounded).
Here’s what Thom Yorke had to say about the song and Patch:
Recently the last remaining UK veteran of the 1st world war Harry Patch died at the age of 111. I had heard a very emotional interview with him a few years ago on the Today program on Radio4. The way he talked about war had a profound effect on me. It became the inspiration for a song that we happened to record a few weeks before his death.
It was done live in an abbey. The strings were arranged by Jonny. I very much hope the song does justice to his memory as the last survivor.
It would be very easy for our generation to forget the true horror of war, without the likes of Harry to remind us.
I hope we do not forget.
“War is a calculated and condoned slaughter of human beings”—Harry Patch
All proceeds from the track will be donated to the Royal British Legion.