THE death of Harry Patch – the last survivor of the World War One trenches – is a moment for contemplation.

He had become an international icon, revered by monarchs and statesmen. He came to represent the suffering and bravery of an entire generation.

In some ways he was unremarkable, in that his wartime experiences were shared by millions of men. He otherwise lived a relatively straightforward life in Somerset. Even his name had the everyman quality of the typical conscript.

But, from that army of millions, someone had to be the last man standing. And it was him.

So Harry Patch became the modern version of the Unknown Soldier; the embodiment of all men and all sacrifice. Apart from this soldier was known; he was flesh-and-blood-and-scars, with vivid tales to tell of death, comradeship, fear, mud and disease. They were his stories, but they were the stories of every soldier.

He was a living version of a Wilfred Owen poem, giving depth and humanity to the narrative of World War One. He talked of the horror and the squalor, but he also had humour, and strong political views.

So Harry Patch’s death resonates with significance. It closes the most bloody and evocative chapter of our past. It makes us think about the changes to the World during his 111 years. It raises the perennial questions about the necessity or otherwise of warfare. It invites us to reflect on human nature itself.

I have had the opportunity and honour to be introduced to some very powerful and famous people, but the most significant person I have met is Harry Patch. I spent almost two hours with him in 2005, at his nursing home in Wells, talking about his wartime memories.

He was a very old man, but he was not just a man; he was an entire period of our history, and it has now gone forever.