According to an article I read the other day, super-centenarians- like Patch- are distinguished by one thing: they don't hold grudges. I don't know if this is really true, but wouldn't it be fine if it was? You want to live a very long time? Then put aside bitterness. Actually Patch was bitter- full of anger at a system that had put so many of his generation through hell- but it wsn't personal- not aimed at anyone in particular- and that, I think, makes the difference.
I only knew Patch from what I saw of him on TV, but he seemed like a good man- not averagely good, but shiningly good. There was no side to him- no ego- and if he emerged into the limelight in his final years- after a century of keeping quiet- it was because he felt it was his duty to bear witness. The same goes for Henry Allingham- briefly the world's oldest man and also a veteran of the Great War, though not a front-line Tommy- who predeceased him by two weeks. I've no time for all the guff about the "greatest generation"- there's nothing particularly great about being caught up in a stupid, murderous war- but these two last representatives of it did their comrades proud- and will be remembered not only as symbolic figures, but with real admiration and affection.
The First World War cast a long, long shadow. I was born over 30 years after it ended but it shaped my consciousness profoundly. It's strange to think there's now nobody left who remembers the fighting on the Western Front.