Harry Patch and the Battle Proms

On Saturday night we headed off down the road to Hatfield House for this year’s Battle Prom Concert, one of those truly weird only-in-England things. Essentially, the deal is that you turn up, grab a spot to pitch your deckchairs (plus your gazebo if you get there early enough – which we were, just) and settle down for a picnic. The entertainment consists of a cavalry display by a bunch of Napoleonic war re-enacters, a spectacular aerobatic display by a Spitfire and a concert programme of pieces designed to bring out your inner jingoist, including the 1812 (with real cannon and fireworks), Beethoven’s Battle Symphony (again with real cannon and fireworks – not one of old Ludwig’s finest pieces, but never mind) and ending up with Jerusalem, Rule Britannia and Pomp and Circumstance No. 1, with associated audience singalong and flag-waving. All in all, a great afternoon and evening’s entertainment.

And all this on the day that Harry Patch died, aged 111, a stark reminder (if we needed it) of what war is really all about for the poor bastards at the sharp end. My VWC chum Ian Cundell has written far more eloquently about the significance of Harry Patch’s passing over at If Shakespeare …, and I recommend that you take a look.

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