World's oldest man Henry Allingham dies
First World War veteran Henry Allingham who last month officially became
the world's oldest man has died at the age of 113.
25 July 2009

By Patrick Sawer Published: 7:52AM BST 18 Jul 2009, Daily Telegraph


Mr Allingham died in his sleep at 3.10am on Saturday at his care home near Brighton, after a life that saw him marked out as a national treasure. He was one of the last three surviving British veterans of the First World War.
He was also the last surviving founder member of the RAF, the last man to have witnessed the Battle of Jutland and the last surviving member of the Royal Naval Air Service.
On June 20 Guinness World Records had announced that Mr Allingham, who celebrated his 113th birthday on June 6, became the world's oldest man after the previous incumbent, Tomoji Tanabe, died in his sleep at his home in Japan, also at the age of 113.
He jokingly attributed his longevity to "cigarettes, whisky and wild, wild women".
Mr Allingham, who became a familiar face at Remembrance ceremonies, was born in Clapton, East London, in 1896.
After his father's death he was brought up by his mother, who persuaded him not to join up as soon as war broke out. When she died in 1915 he enlisted, serving first as a seaplane mechanic and then as a spotter, or bomber.
He later confessed that he did not realise what war meant when he signed up, but his experiences at the Third Battle of Ypres, widely known as Passchendaele, resulted in his nave enthusiasm for battle and glory that gave way to a passion for peace.
He once told the BBC: "War's stupid. Nobody wins. You might as well talk first, you have to talk last anyway."
The scenes he witnessed of soldiers waiting to go over the top at Ypres have stayed with him ever since.
"They would just stand there in 2ft of water in mud-filled trenches, waiting to go forward," he said. "They knew what was coming. It was pathetic to see those men like that. I don't think they have ever got the admiration and respect they deserved."
Mr Allingham and his wife Dorothy were together for more than 50 years, living to see his first great-great-great-grandchild. After the war he went into the motor industry, eventually joining the design department at Ford before retiring in 1961.
When asked how he had lived so long, Mr Allingham, who held the Legion d'Honneur, said: "I don't know if there is a secret, but keeping within your capacity is vital.
"I've had two major breakdowns, one during the war and one after but both when I was trying to do the work of three men.
"The trick is to look after yourself and always know your limitations."
Mr Allingham's nephew, Ronald Cator, said it was "a very sad day for the family".
He added: "He had an incredible life - a hard one, and an enjoyable one in the last few years.
"He was an incredible man. It's a very sad day for everyone."
Mr Cator, 75, from Acle, Norfolk, said he last saw Mr Allingham last month at his 113th birthday celebrations in London.
He said: "He was very, very frail. I visited him in April as well and he had been going steadily downhill ever since then."
Asked what memories he had of Mr Allingham from earlier years, he said: "I always remember him singing.
"He would sing all the old songs. He and my father would love to get together and have a good sing-along."
Since April 2006, Mr Allingham, who lost his sight as a result of macular degeneration, had been cared for by St Dunstan's, the charity providing support for visually impaired ex-Service men and women, at its centre in Ovingdean, near Brighton.
Robert Leader, chief executive of St Dunstan's, said: "Everybody at St Dunstan's is saddened by Henry's loss and our sympathy goes out to his family.
"He was very active right up to his final days, having recently celebrated his 113th birthday on HMS President surrounded by family.
"As well as possessing a great spirit of fun, he represented the last of a generation who gave a very great deal for us. Henry made many friends among the residents and staff at St Dunstan's. He was a great character and will be missed."
Mr Allingham had five grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, 14 great-great grandchildren and one great-great-great grandchild.
A funeral will take place later this month at St Nicholas' Church in Brighton.
Mr Leader said: "He was very active right up to his final days, having recently celebrated his 113th birthday on HMS President surrounded by family.
"As well as possessing a great spirit of fun, he represented the last of a generation who gave a very great deal for us.
"Henry made many friends among the residents and staff at St Dunstan's. He was a great character and will be missed."
Mr Alllingham's death leaves just two surviving British veterans of the First World War - Harry Patch, 111, who is the last surviving soldier in the world to have fought in the trenches, and Claude Choules, 108, who served in the Royal Navy.
Speaking from Fletcher House care home in Wells, Somerset, Mr Patch paid tribute to Mr Allingham, saying he was "very sad at losing a friend".
Prime Minister Gordon Brown paid tribute to Mr Allingham on Saturday.
He said: "I had the privilege of meeting Henry many times. He was a tremendous character, one of the last representatives of a generation of tremendous characters.
"My thoughts are with his family as they mourn his passing but celebrate his life."
A spokesman for Buckingham Palace said: "The Queen was saddened to hear of the death of Henry Allingham.
"He was one of the generation who sacrificed so much for us all.
"Her thoughts are with his family during this time."
Malcolm Rifkind, the former foreign secretary, said Mr Allingham's death marked "the end of an era".
Mr Allingham left a legacy of memories to the nation, according to Dennis Goodwin, from the First World War Veterans' Association.
He said: "He left quite a legacy to the nation of memories of what it was like to have been in the First World War."


Henry Allingham funeral marks 'end of an era'
Crowds gather for military tribute to first world war veteran and world's oldest man
* guardian.co.uk, Thursday 30 July 2009 13.25 BST

Henry Allingham, who died this month. A quarter peal of Gransire Caters was rung at his funeral in Brighton. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/PA

Crowds turned out today to mark the "end of an era" at the funeral service of the first world war veteran and world's oldest man Henry Allingham.

A full military service was held for Allingham, who died in his sleep aged 113 on 18 July at St Dunstan's care home for blind ex-service personnel in Ovingdean, near Brighton, East Sussex.

Many of his relatives travelled from the United States to join royal, political and military dignitaries to honour Allingham, the last founder member of the RAF and the final survivor of the Battle of Jutland.

Guests included veterans' minister Kevan Jones, incoming chief of air staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton, commander-in-chief fleet of the Royal Navy Admiral Sir Trevor Soar and the duchess of Gloucester, as patron of the First World War Veterans' Association.

Allingham's funeral cortege left St Dunstan's at about 11.15am, making its way slowly along the A259 and into Brighton city centre to St Nicholas church for the service.

A quarter peal of Grandsire Caters was rung, half muffled, by local bell ringers and Royal Navy and Royal Air Force Guild of Ringers.

His coffin was carried into the church by three Royal Navy and three RAF personnel to reflect the war veteran's service with both.

His medals, including the British War and the Victory medal, were carried by his great-grandsons, Michael Gray and Brent Gray, both petty officers in the US navy.

Outside the Anglican St Nicholas Church, tributes were paid to Allingham, saying his death represented the passing of a brave generation.

Dennis Goodwin, founder and chair of the First World War Veterans' Association, said: "I will never be able to forget him. I have been to many veterans' funerals but this is most special because it coincides with the end of an era."

Vice Admiral Sir Adrian Johns said: "Henry was full of humility and humanity. He had a huge amount of personal integrity and fighting spirit. When he spoke to young people in schools, that came across and he made a real impact because of that."

Before the service, the veterans' minister said: "I am proud to be here to pay tribute to a remarkable man. Henry Allingham dedicated the final years of his long life to raising awareness of the sacrifices and bravery of his generation.

"This was born out of his experience in the Royal Navy and as a founder of the RAF during the first world war."

Allingham's grandson, David Gray, said: "I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of affection for Henry, and the many people who have come here today to pay their respects.

"I hope that everyone views today as a celebration of Henry's life. He was a man who did so much to further people's understanding of the sacrifice of his generation."

Soar said: "Henry will be remembered with great fondness for his strong sense of humour and joy of life. He was an inspiration for all those in the Royal Navy, and the Fleet Air Arm in particular."

Speaking from London, Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy, chief of the air staff, said Allingham's death was a "milestone in history".

* guardian.co.uk Guardian News and Media Limited 2009

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30 July 2009