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Harry Patch, een van de laatste veteranen

 
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BerichtGeplaatst: 06 Mrt 2006 18:10    Onderwerp: Harry Patch, een van de laatste veteranen Reageer met quote




Born 17 June 1898

A rude awakening

I had a brother who was a regular soldier. He was in Africa when the war broke out. He was a sergeant major in the Royal Engineers, who fought and was wounded at Mons. And they kept him in England after that, as an instructor. He never went back and he used to tell me what the trenches were like. I didn’t want to go. I knew what I was going to. A lot of people didn’t and when they got to France they had a rude awakening.

The trenches were about six feet deep, about three feet wide - mud, water, a duckboard if you were lucky. You slept on the firing step, if you could, shells bursting all around you. Filthy.

Infected by lice

From the time I went to France - the second week in June 1917 - until I left 23rd December 1917, injured by shellfire, I never had a bath. I never had any clean clothes. And when we got to Rouen on the way home they took every stitch of clothing off us: vest, shirt, pants, everything and they burnt it all. It was the only way to get rid of the lice. For each lousy louse, he had his own particular bite, and his own itch and he’d drive you mad. We used to turn our vests inside out to get a little relief. And you’d go down all the seams, if you dared show a light, with a candle, and burn them out. And those little devils who’d laid their eggs in the seam, you’d turn your vest inside out and tomorrow you’d be just as lousy as you were today. And that was the trenches.

Fighting for their lives

You daren’t show above otherwise a sniper would have you. You used to look between the fire and apertures and all you could see was a couple of stray dogs out there, fighting over a biscuit that they’d found. They were fighting for their lives. And the thought came to me – well, there they are, two animals out there fighting over dog biscuit, the same as we get to live. They were fighting for their lives. I said, ‘We are two civilised nations - British and German - and what were we doing? We were in a lousy, dirty trench fighting for our lives? For what? For eighteen pence a flipping day.’

Life in the trenches

You got tots of rum.There were many a man who didn’t like rum, didn’t drink it. It used to warm you up. Life in the trenches, well…can you imagine now, going out from this room along the corridor and there is a trench dug across the lawn. Six feet deep and three feet wide. There is water and mud in the bottom. You sit on a trench at the side to sleep, don’t matter whether it is wet, fine, hot or cold. Four days you are there and you got to stick it. That was the conditions.

If any man tells you he went into the front line and he wasn’t scared – he’s a liar. You were scared from the moment you got there. You never knew. I mean, in the trench you were all right. If you kept down, a sniper couldn’t get you. But you never knew if the artillery had a shell that burst above you and you caught the shrapnel. That was it.

Shell shock

You were in that trench. That was your front line. You had to keep an eye on the German front line. You daren’t leave. No. I suppose if you left, and some of them did, they were shot as cowards. That is another thing with shell shock – I never saw anyone with it, never experienced it – but it seemed you stood at the bottom of the ladder and you just could not move. Shellshock took all the nervous power out of you.

An officer would come down and very often shoot them as a coward. That man was no more a coward than you or I. He just could not move. That’s shell shock. Towards the end of war they recognised it as an illness. The early part of the war – they didn’t. If you were there you were shot. And that was it. And there’s a good many men who were shot for cowardice and they are asking now … that verdict be taken away. They were not cowards.

Sleep in the trenches

Rats as big as cats. Anything they could gnaw, they would - to live. If you didn’t watch it, they’d gnaw your shoe laces. Anything leather, they would nibble that. As you went to sleep, you would cover your face with a blanket and you could hear the damn things run over you.

As you to sat on the firing step, you could have a doze. Not much more. Half-past seven in the morning, stand-to and you’d have an inspection. Last thing at night, you’d have an inspection. You had to sleep in between.

No Man’s Land

Probably you’d hear something in No Man’s Land. It might have been a working party. You reported it. The officer would have a look through his field glasses. If it was any good and it wasn’t British, give them a burst. Number One would give them a shot or two out of the Lewis gun, and after firing that Lewis gun from one aperture, we would always move down the trench. This was because, if it was spotted by a German observer there, the range was sent back to their artillery. Staying put was an invitation for half a dozen rockets. If you stayed where you were, you chanced it.

Going ‘over the top’

Never forget it. We crawled, couldn’t stand up - a sniper would have you. I came across a Cornishman, he must have been from ‘A’ or ‘B’ companies who were the assault companies when we went over. ‘C’ and ‘D’, we were support. I came across a Cornishman, he was ripped from his shoulder to his waist – shrapnel.

Now a bullet wound is clean, shrapnel will tear you all to pieces. He was laying there in a pool of blood. As we got to him, he said, ‘Shoot me.’ He was beyond all human aid. Before we would pull out the revolver to shoot him, he died. I was with him in the last seconds of his life. hen he went from this life, to whatever is beyond.

Now what I saw in the way of sights at Passchendaele and at Pilkem - the wounded lying about asking you for help - we didn’t have the knowledge, the equipment or the time to spend with them. I lost all my faith in the Church of England.

And when that fellah died, he just said one word: ‘Mother.’ It wasn’t a cry of despair. It was a cry or surprise and joy. I think - although I wasn’t allowed to see her - I am sure his mother was in the next world to welcome him. And he knew it. I was just allowed to see that much and no more. And from that day until today - and now I’m nearly 106 years old - I shall always remember that cry and I shall always remember that death is not the end.

You’ve got a memory. You’ve got a brain about the size of a tea cup. I’ve got a memory that goes back for 80 or 90 years and I think that memory goes on with you when you die. And that’s my opinion. Death is not the end.

Shooting to kill

I never knew Bob [Harry’s friend and gunner] to use that [Lewis] gun to kill. If he used that gun at all, it was about two feet off the ground and he would wound them in the legs. He wouldn’t kill them if he could help it.

[A German soldier] came to me with a rifle and a fixed bayonet. He had no ammunition, otherwise he could have shot us. He came towards us. I had to bring him down. First of all, I shot him in the right shoulder. He dropped the rifle and the bayonet. He came on. His idea, I suppose, was to kick the gun if he could into the mud, so making it useless. But anyway, he came on and for our own safety, I had to bring him down. I couldn’t kill him. He was a man I didn’t know. I didn’t know his language. I couldn’t talk to him. I shot him above the ankle, above the knee. He said something to me in German. God knows what it was. But for him the war was over.

He would be picked up by a stretcher bearer. He would have his wounds treated. He would be put into a prisoner-of-war camp. At the end of the war, he would go back to his family. Now, six weeks after that, a fellow countryman of his pulled the lever of the gun that fired the rocket that killed my three mates, and wounded me. If I had met that German soldier after my three mates had been killed, I’d have no trouble at all in killing him.

Losing friends

The night we caught it, we were in the front line and we were going back. We had taken the German front line, the German support line and we were coming back from the German support through the German old front line. We had to cross what was the old No Man’s Land. It was crossing there that a rocket burst amongst us. It killed my three mates, it wounded me. We were on open ground.

September 22nd, half-past ten at night. That’s when I lost them. That’s my Remembrance Day. Armistice Day, you remember the thousands of others who died. For what? For nothing. And today you would never get another trench warfare. Never. Today, you got the internal combustion engine, the one like you drive your car and improvement on that. It’s entitled a man to fly, and today a trench is no good. He simply goes down the trench with his machine gun - that’s it. You’ll never get another trench war.

Being wounded

You didn’t know you were hit. You never heard the bullet or the shell that hit you. All I can remember was a flash, I went down, blew me down. I suppose I had enough sense, I saw the blood, I had a field dressing on. I must have passed out. How long I lay there I don’t know.

Next thing I found I was in a dressing station. The field bandage had gone, the wound had been cleaned and a clean bandage on it. Around about it was a disinfectant of some sort, to keep the blinking lice away from the blood.

I lay there all the next day and the doctor came to me. ‘You can see the shrapnel – it must have been a ricochet.’ It was just buried in. He said to me, ‘Would you like me to take that out?’ I said, ‘How long will you be?’ He said, ‘Before you answer yes. With no anaesthetic in the camp at all, we’d used it on all the people more seriously wounded than you are.’ He said, ‘If I take that shrapnel out it will be as you are now.’ Pain from it was terrific. I said, ‘Alright carry on.’ Four fellahs held me down, one on each arm, one on each leg, and I can feel the cut of that scalpel now as he went through and pulled it out.

The doctor came to me some hours later. He said, ‘You want this shrapnel as a souvenir?’ I said, ‘Throw it away,’ and I never saw it again. I met his son, who was also a doctor, at Buckingham Palace eighty years later. He told me that if the shrapnel was a quarter inch deeper, it would have cut a main artery and that was it.

Going home

The fellah in the next bed said to me, ‘If he writes anything in that book on the table, a green book, you’re for Blighty.’ Well I didn’t believe him, and then some hours later somebody came in, they called my name, my number. I was out on the Red Cross truck down to Rouen … And there we had a bath, got rid of the lice, they burnt our clothing. We could see the hospital ship. We were out on the hospital ship, but never sailed that night. There was a rumour of a submarine in the Channel. We sailed the next night and came to Southampton. I think if I had gone to the field dressing main station, I don’t think I ever would [have sailed]. It was the fact that it was the advanced dressing station and they wanted the beds. Get rid of him.

Mutiny

‘E’ company were about a thousand strong. We had an officer we didn’t like. He used to take us out route marches. We didn’t like it. That afternoon he wanted the ‘E’ company on parade for bayonet practice. The war had been over for months. The sergeant major opened the door. Somebody threw a boot at him. He went back, reported it.

The officer came and they told him flat that they weren’t going out on parade. Well, he went back to the company office and about thirty of the men followed him and they asked for him. He came out, he pulled his revolver out and he clicked the hammer back. Nobody said anything. We had all been on the range. I was on fatigue that morning so I wasn’t on parade. Nobody said anything.

They all went back to their huts and they rounded up what ammunition they could and went back and they asked for the officer again. He was a captain, risen from the ranks. He came out and he clicked the hammer back on his revolver. He said, ‘The first man who says he is not going on parade, I’ll shoot him.’ No sooner had he said that, when thirty bolts went back and somebody shouted, ‘Now shoot you bugger if you like.’ He threw the revolver down, disappeared. We were all run up for a mutiny.

We had a brigadier come over from the mainland to hear the officer’s side of it. Then he said, ‘I want to hear the men.’ Twenty or thirty of the men went behind a screen and they told him. They said, ‘We don’t want bayonet practice. We’ve had the real bloody thing. Some of us are wounded by bayonets.’ The outcome was that there were no parades except just to clear the camp, just fatigues. The officer was moved to a different command. We never saw him again. It’s a damn good job we didn’t.

The price of war

It wasn’t worth it. No war is worth it. No war is worth the loss of a couple of lives let alone thousands. T’isn’t worth it … the First World War, if you boil it down, what was it? Nothing but a family row. That’s what caused it. The Second World War – Hitler wanted to govern Europe, nothing to it. I would have taken the Kaiser, his son, Hitler and the people on his side … and bloody shot them. Out the way and saved millions of lives. T’isn’t worth it.

Breaking the silence

Opposite my bedroom there is a window and there is a light over the top. Now [when the staff go into that room] they put the light on. If I was half asleep – the light coming on was the flash of a bomb. That flash brought it all back. For eighty years I’ve never watched a war film, I never spoke of it, not to my wife. For six years, I’ve been here [in the nursing home]. Six years it’s been nothing but World War One. As I say, World War One is history, it isn’t news. Forget it. [/img]
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BerichtGeplaatst: 18 Jun 2006 9:51    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

18 June 2006
THE TOMMY OF THE TRENCHES
EXCLUSIVE AS THE 90TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME NEARS, WE SALUTE HERO HARRY PATCH, WHO FACED THE FULL HORROR OF WORLD WAR ONE AND WHO AT 108 IS..
By Nigel Blundell

NINETY years on from the horrors of the Somme there is now only one man left who knows what being in the trenches was really like.

Harry Patch is the last man standing from battalions of brave Tommies who found themselves in a hell of blood, mud and carnage after marching off to World War One full of pride and patriotism.

Yesterday Harry celebrated his 108th birthday, but he is still haunted by memories of all those years ago. Frail with the years, he's nevertheless still a dignified man... but not afraid to show his emotions, sometimes even weep.

"You can't describe it, the smell of death," he says in his soft and sad voice. "And you can never get it over to youngsters of today what it was like - there's no smell on TV.

"We lived hour by hour. You saw the sun rise, hopefully you'd see it set. Some men would, some wouldn't. I remember looking out into No Man's Land, seeing a couple of stray dogs looking for something to eat to keep alive.

"If they found a biscuit they'd fight over who should have a bite. I'd think, 'Well, what are we doing that's really any different?' We're fighting for our lives, just the same. Like dogs.

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"We fought, but what the hell we fought for I don't know. For a few feet of soil. We should have given the politicians the guns and put THEM in the field and made them fight it out.

"They should have done a bit more talking beforehand - and saved all those lives."

Harry was among the six million Britons who saw service in "the war to end all wars". Until a decade ago, about 12,000 of them were still alive to tell of their experiences.

A year ago there were perhaps 15 who had served on the Western Front. Today there are just three.

Henry Allingham, of Eastbourne, Sussex, who at 110 is Britain's oldest man, was a mechanic in the Royal Naval Air Service and spent his war on a flying field near the Western Front.

Corporal William Young, 106, now of Perth, Australia, a corporal in the Royal Flying Corps, was also based near the Front in the last months of the war.

Both deserve to be honoured... but Harry Patch is unique, as the last survivor of the front line.

As Private Harry Patch of the 7th Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, he did not set foot in France until a year after the Battle of the Somme on July 1, 1916, when 60,000 British soldiers fell.

But he found himself thrown into another equally horrific battle, spending four months on the Ypres Salient. There, he endured the notorious Battle of Passchendaele which, from July to November 1917, became a bullet and rain-lashed killing ground where men, both dead and alive, sank into the mud and drowned.

What was supposed to have been a breakthrough became a living hell in which British and Empire forces advanced just five miles at a cost of at least a quarter of a million casualties.

Harry's voice becomes even softer as he whispers his terrible memories of that time: "During one attack I came across a lad from our regiment and he was ripped open from his shoulder to his waist by shrapnel. He was lying in a pool of blood and beyond all human help.

"He said, 'Shoot me'. But before we could draw a revolver he was dead. And the only word he uttered was 'Mother'. It wasn't a cry of despair' it was a cry of surprise and joy. I think - no, I'm sure - that his mother was in the next world to welcome him and he knew it.

"I was just allowed to see that much and no more. And from that day on, I've always remembered that cry - and that death is not the end." The end of Harry's time in the trenches came in a moment that will haunt him to his grave - when three of his best pals were killed. "I can still see the shell explosion that killed them and nearly did for me too," he says. "All I can remember is us running along together. They're shelling us, there's a flash - and when I wake up, they're gone.

"And when I'm lying in bed at night and someone switches on the light outside my room, if I'm half asleep and half awake, there's that flash and I'm back on that battlefield."

Harry is talking in the lounge of the care home in Wells, Somerset, where he now lives.

For most people, it is more than a lifetime since he was wounded that terrible day in September 1917 and evacuated to England.

He married the nurse who had cared for him, and set himself up as a plumber in Coombe Down, near Bath, Somerset.

After the death of his first wife from cancer, he married again and had two sons. Once more widowed, his closest companion at the care home - indeed, he describes her as "my girlfriend" - is a 92-year-old Eastender named Doris. In the last few years, many have realised how precious his awful memories are. But it was not always so. And Harry himself did not speak of them for most of his life. "I went 80 years and never mentioned the war, not even to my family," he says.

"I never even watched a war film. I bottled it all up. Then in 2004 I went back to Flanders for a memorial service. There I met a German veteran, Charles Kuentz, who for all I know, might have killed my comrades.

"But we shook hands. And we were agreed on so much about that awful war. A nice old chap, he was. Why he should have been my enemy, I don't know.

"He told me, 'I fought you because I was told to, and you did the same'. It's sad but true. We fought against each other - but what the hell we fought for, I now don't know.

"A good many veterans were the same as me. They wouldn't talk about the war. The memories, they come back - and they're too vivid." In Harry's view, the veterans' reluctance to speak about their experiences is one of the reasons they and their widows were treated so shabbily over the years.

"They never got the help they needed", he says. Which is why he shows a resigned scepticism about plans by politicians for a day of national commemoration to honour the men of World War One.

As the only Tommy left alive, his opinion should count for something. Predictably, no one has asked for it. So I do.

"They want to honour the fighting men of the Great War? It's a bit late in the day, isn't it!

"Why didn't they think about doing more for the veterans and their widows long ago when boys came back from the war bloodied and broken - or not at all?

"It is ALL those who fought who should be remembered - every one of them."

HARRY features in Britain's Last Tommies, by Richard Van Emden, (which will soon appear in paperback) and Pals On The Somme by Roni Wilkinson, published by Pen & Sword books at £19.99 each.

features@sundaymirror.co.uk
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BerichtGeplaatst: 18 Jun 2006 9:52    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

18 June 2006
RAW PAIN OF LOSING MY PALS

THIS is Harry's traumatic account of his worst moment of the war -when three mates died in action at Ypres and he was wounded himself. SEPTEMBER 22, 1917, is my Remembrance Day, not Armistice Day. I'm always very very quiet on that day and don't want anyone talking to me.

It happened at 10pm, as we were crossing open ground. A shell burst just behind me and I saw blood coming from my tunic. Then came the pain.

At the dressing station, there were so many worse off than me. I waited all night and all the next day before a doctor could look at the wound.

"All the anaesthetic had been used up in the battle, so four orderlies grabbed my arms and legs as the doctor cut into me to pull out the shrapnel.

The pain was so terrific, I could have killed him. What was worse, though, was the shock of learning that I had lost three good mates.

I wasn't told until later that the three men behind me had been blown to pieces. My reaction was terrible. It upset me more than anything. It was like losing part of my life. It's a difficult thing to explain, the friendship between mates during that war. It was almost like love.

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There was always a certain amount of emotional chatter, nerves about getting through the night, then going up to the line and not knowing if you'd be coming back.

Sooner or later you showed your emotions. That was why the comradeship was so important, because I know I was scared more or less the whole time I was out there. Anyone who tells you that in the trenches they weren't scared is a damned liar. You were scared all time.

You couldn't deal with the fear. It was there all the time - and it always will be.

http://www.sundaymirror.co.uk/news/tm_objectid=17249240&method=full&siteid=62484&headline=raw-pain-of-losing-my-pals--name_page.html
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BerichtGeplaatst: 18 Jun 2006 17:17    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Dat is de uitspreker van de quote in mijn onderschrift hier!

Hij komt ook aan het woord in de documentaire "World War One in Colour".
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BerichtGeplaatst: 01 Jul 2007 7:34    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

The last survivor of Passchendaele

Ninety years after, a veteran aged 109 tells of his moment of truth on the battlefield

David Smith
Sunday July 1, 2007
The Observer

Harry Patch is the last fighting Tommy of the First World War. He alone will preserve the living memory of the carnage of the Battle of Passchendaele on its 90th anniversary this month.

Next week Patch, now aged 109, will meet his sole surviving British-based comrades from the First World War - Henry Allingham, 111, who served in the RAF, and 106-year-old Bill Stone, formerly of the Royal Navy. The three will have a private audience with the Queen, attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace and meet chiefs of staff at the Ministry of Defence.

Two days later, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh will travel to Belgium to commemorate Passchendaele, a name which became synonymous with the mud and carnage of the Great War. They will attend a service at the Tyne Cot graveyard, the biggest military cemetery in Europe, and a Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate, a memorial arch inscribed with the names of 54,896 Commonwealth soldiers who died with no known graves. The veterans are too frail to travel so soon after visiting London, but hope to make the pilgrimage this summer.

Passchendaele, officially known as the Third Battle of Ypres, cost 300,000 allied lives for the sake of five miles conquered during three months of attrition under the command of Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig. The war poet Siegfried Sassoon gave it the epitaph: 'I died in hell - they called it Passchendaele.'

Preparations for the battle began with a two-week bombardment of German positions with 4.5 million shells fired from about 3,000 guns. The infantry offensive was launched on 31 July, with the aim of pushing north-east to free the German-occupied ports on the Belgian coast, but within days allied forces had literally become stuck in the mud. Torrential rain, the heaviest in 30 years, and the previous shelling had turned the area into a quagmire. Guns, tanks and other machinery seized up in the conditions, and in places the mud was so deep that men, horses and pack mules drowned. On 6 November, after a long stalemate, allied troops reached the Belgian village of Passchendaele, by now a ruin. A total of about half a million men died.

Patch was a teenage conscript in 1917 and still remembers the battle as 'mud, mud and more mud mixed together with blood'. Last year, in up to 100 hours of conversations at his nursing home in Wells, Somerset, the old soldier poured out his life story to the First World War historian Richard van Emden. The result is the imminent publication by Bloomsbury of a memoir, The Last Fighting Tommy, which could make Patch the world's oldest first-time author.

'My Remembrance Day is on 22 September, when I lost three mates,' he once said. It was on that date in 1917, serving in the 7th Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, that Patch's battalion was returning to the support line when, he tells van Emden in the book, one of them stopped to 'spend a penny'. There was a flash and bang as a shell exploded just yards away, knocking Patch out for a couple of seconds. When he regained consciousness, he felt blood on his tunic and applied a field dressing, then passed out again. A piece of shrapnel was lodged in his groin. He later discovered that three of his friends had been killed.

But the story which most affected van Emden was Patch's memory of a Cornishman ripped from shoulder to waist with shrapnel, his stomach on the ground beside him. 'Shoot me,' the young soldier begged, but before Patch could draw his revolver the man was dead. In a 2005 interview, Patch recalled: 'I was with him for the last 60 seconds of his life. He gasped one word - "Mother". That one word has run through my brain for 88 years. I will never forget it. I think it is the most sacred word in the English language. It wasn't a cry of distress or pain; it was one of surprise and joy.'

Van Emden added: 'Harry said that, from the way the lad said it, he knew his mother was there waiting for him. Harry felt he was there at that moment of life passing over. He's standing in the middle of a battlefield and has this moment of epiphany. I get goosebumps now talking about it.'

Patch, a plumber who grew up near Bath and can remember the sinking of the Titanic, fought fires in Bath during the Second World War and had to dive for cover when a German fighter opened fire. He outlived two wives and two sons, and his most recent partner, Doris, died in March, aged 92. He has a grandson, nephews, nieces and a goddaughter. Patch's 109-year-old eyes are so sharp that he does not needed glasses and he reads a newspaper every day. Until he turned 100, he says, he only ever saw a doctor once, for a bout of 'flu in 1954.

For 80 years he did not talk about the war, even to his family, but more recently he has felt able to give interviews, speak at literary festivals and return to Ypres to meet a German veteran. He has used his proceeds from the book to buy a lifeboat for use around the country and will launch it in Poole, Dorset, this month.

Ever since Passchendaele, historians have questioned Haig's decision to continue with the offensive into November, when many objectives had already been achieved. For many he remains a donkey leading lions, satirised mercilessly by the musical Oh! What a Lovely War and the BBC comedy Blackadder Goes Forth. But on the eve of the battle's anniversary he has been defended by his son, George Haig. Speaking to The Observer from the family seat in Melrose, near Edinburgh, Earl Haig said: 'No one can be certain it was right to carry on for the last few weeks, but that was my father's view. He didn't take the decision lightly and I'm prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt: he was right to carry on and get to the Passchendaele village. How would we all be feeling now if the Germans had won? It was the right decision because he realised the war had to be won.'

The 89-year-old, who fought in the Second World War and was a prisoner at Colditz, added: 'He had to do what he thought was right to win the war... My humble opinion is he did it extremely well and our country should not be criticising him but thanking him for bringing a victory, and a total victory. He was deeply sensitive to the losses and a compassionate man - that I promise you. That was why he was a great man.'



http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,2115789,00.html
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BerichtGeplaatst: 01 Jul 2007 18:14    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

is dat een recente foto? patch ziet er nog patent uit.
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Geregistreerd op: 27-4-2007
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BerichtGeplaatst: 01 Jul 2007 18:31    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Hier zie je hem op youtube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Rsy_5lelxo&mode=related&search=
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