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Landmark documentary series telling the stories of Britain's last surviving World War I veterans, known as Tommies.
Filming for The Last Tommy began when just 27 Tommies remained from a total of 5.5 million men who had fought in the war. At that time the youngest was 105, and the oldest, an impressive 109 years old.
This emotional documentary series tells their remarkable stories, from their earliest memories to the end of the tragic war. The last of them, Harry Patch died in July 2009. In the film he meets one of the last German survivors of the Great War on the battlefield where they once fought each other.
Across three programmes the final platoon of Tommies recall their remarkable experiences, from the beginning of the war until 1918. We tell their stories using interviews, film archive, stills and dramatised reconstructions.
1/3. Nine veterans offer fascinating glimpses of their lives as teenagers before they joined the armed forces. They describe their first experiences of trench warfare, and the appallingly high casualty rate caused by artillery and machine guns. During a vivid and powerful interview, Harry Patch recalls how a wounded soldier asked to be shot, to end his suffering.
In France, Arthur Halestrap visits a battlefield excavation that uncovers the remains of some of the thousands of soldiers who went missing during the war.
Scottish veteran Alfred Anderson remembers the extraordinary Christmas truce of 1914, when some soldiers from the opposing sides played football together.Screener
2/3. The last British survivors of the First World War tell the moving and powerful stories of their lives from the mid-point of the war in 1916 onwards, using interviews, film archive, stills and dramatized reconstructions.
Harry tells us about the bond he formed with his machine gun team. They would share parcels from home and look after each other in whatever way they could. But on September 22nd 1917 during the Battle of Passchendaele, Harry’s team were hit by a German shell, and all his mates were killed. Harry himself only narrowly survived.
Other veterans describe the terrible conditions they endured, from poison gas attacks to body lice.
Harry goes on to meet a German veteran, Charles Kuentz, part of an artillery unit that may have fired on Harry in 1916. In an important act of international reconciliation they shake hands for the first time.Screener
3/3. The last British survivors of the First World War tell their stories from after the war ended in November 1918, until the present. Born at the end of the 19th century, they lived through the events that shaped Europe in the modern world.
They recall how they expected to come home as conquering heroes but soon felt forgotten by a nation that was embarrassed by the war. Of how they witnessed the sowing of the seeds of conflict for the Second World War and of how they endured the cruel disappointment of another world conflict so soon after ‘the war to end all wars’.
Harry Patch was the last British veteran who fought in the trenches during the First World War. When he laid down his rifle at the end of the war in November 1918, he hoped never to see another shot fired in anger. Twenty years later he was under attack again, this time when a German bomber strafed him while he worked as a fireman during air raids on Bath in 1941.
Harry and five other remarkable First World War veterans, all in their second century at the time of recording, describe their lives after the Armistice of November 1918. At the age of 109, Harry Patch became the very last surviving Tommy. He was an iconic figure, whose powerful message about the futility of war still rings out today.
Their moving testimonies pay tribute to the extraordinary resilience and valour of those who not only watched their comrades fall, but also witnessed their numbers diminishing year by year after the war – just five were present at the Cenotaph in 2003 – till the last living memory of the First World War passes away ….Screener
- Series Title : The Last Tommy
- Format : 3 x 60'
- Production company : Quickfire Media
- Commissioning channels : BBC1