Hell upon this Earth

The Economist notes that the last two British survivors of World War I died last year, and marks the occasion with a touching history lesson:

Between salvaging bits of aircraft from the mud, Mr Allingham would read and re-read the small-print Bible his fiancée Dorothy had given him. English wild flowers were pressed between the pages. Mr Patch, in the thick of battle, automatically recalled the lessons heard on Sundays: Moses on Mount Sinai, the Good Samaritan. But surrounded as he was by “devils coming up from the ground” and “hell upon this earth”, he soon lost all his faith in the Church of England. What he clung to in the end was his memory of a young Cornishman, torn open by shrapnel from shoulder to waist “and with his stomach on the ground beside him”. He asked Mr Patch to shoot him, but died first, murmuring “Mother!” It was not a cry of despair, but of surprise and joy. He had seen her; she was there. Death, of which Mr Patch was scared “all the time”, was apparently not the end.
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