Harry Patch, who died yesterday, was a familiar face to those of us who read the Wells Journal every week and had become nationally famous as the last surviving Tommy from WW1.
Funeral services in Wells Cathedral are not available for everyone who dies in this area, but I’m sure there will be widespread local consensus that, if anyone deserves a send-off in the Cathedral, Harry Patch certainly does.
The only thing that seems a bit odd about the plan is the following announcement on the BBC website, that has been echoed in a lot of other media reportage:
‘The Ministry of Defence said there would be a funeral cortege through Wells followed by a service at Wells Cathedral.’
This raises the question of whether the MoD has a say in where the funerals of all ex-servicemen are to be held, not to mention whether there is some kind of hotline or special influence between MoD and the Dioceses of Bath and Wells?
At the risk of sounding ungracious, disrespectful or even a little suspicious, I can't help wondering if the MoD’s apparent involvement in planning Mr Patch’s funeral has something to with the PR attractions of holding such a high profile event for a famous war veteran at a time when we're hearing almost daily news of British deaths in Afghanistan.