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Old 07-21-2009, 08:53 AM
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Default World's oldest man WWI hero Henry Allingham dies aged 113

mirror.co.uk news


He was the world’s oldest man – and, without doubt, one of its bravest.

Henry Allingham, aged 113 and a survivor from the horrors of the the Somme and Ypres, died peacefully in his sleep yesterday.

The Queen led the tributes to Henry, with words chosen to sum up a nation’s gratitude.

“He was one of the generation who sacrificed so much for us all,” said a Buckingham Palace spokesman. “The Queen was saddened to hear of his death.”

Gordon Brown said: “It was a privilege to meet Henry – he was a tremendous character.”

And Henry’s close pal Dennis Goodwin, founder of the WW1 Veterans’ Association, said: “He has left a legacy to the nation – memories of what it was like to actually have been in WW1.”

Henry’s strength had declined rapidly in recent weeks, at his care home near Brighton. “He was very frail,” his nephew Ronald Cator said. “He just wanted to pass away, poor old boy.”

Staff at the St Dunstan’s care home were in tears as the news was announced. Chief executive Robert Leader said: “It feels like the passing of history.”

Now, only two of Britain’s WW1 veterans are still alive – Harry Patch, now 111, the last ‘Tommy’ who fought in the trenches and Claude Choules, 108, who lives in Australia. He served with the Royal Navy and – like Henry – fought at the Battle of Jutland.

Henry was born in Clapton, North-East London, on June 6, 1896. He volunteered as a mechanic with the newly created Royal Naval Air Service in 1915 and was later posted to the Western Front with the Royal Flying Corps, working in the trenches at Ypres to defuse booby traps.

On the Somme, he serviced and refuelled the first airplanes to be used in war. It was a hazardous job since aircraft on the ground were under constant bombardment from long-range guns.

He transferred to the RAF in April 1918.

When persuaded to talk about his experiences many years later, Henry recalled working shoulder-deep in water, mud and rotting bodies.

After the war, he settled back into civilian life, worked as an engineer with Ford Motors and became head of a large family.

His wife Dorothy died aged 74 in 1970, 50 years after they married. When asked the secret of his long life, Henry would mischievously reply: “Cigarettes, whisky and wild, wild women.”

In later years, he came to terms with the terrible sights he had witnessed and discovered a new purpose.

Henry, who celebrated his last birthday on HMS President in London, wanted to make sure younger generations recognised his comrades’ sacrifice. So, he toured schools and met servicemen preparing for modern wars.

He accepted various honours but said they weren’t just in his name, they were in remembrance of those who never grew old. Three years ago, in 2006, he made his first visit to Germany and met a veteran who had once been a foe at the Somme, 109-year-old Robert Meier.

The old men stood from their wheelchairs and shook hands. “My very best wishes, and may you have a long life still,” Henry told his former enemy.

And at the 90th anniversary of the Somme, also in 2006, Prince Charles stooped to shake his hand and described Henry as “one of our nation’s treasures – we should all be humbled by this quiet, genial man”.

It was to be Henry’s farewell visit to his battlefield. And when they asked him how he wanted to be remembered, he replied: “I don’t – I want to be forgotten. Remember the others.”
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Old 07-21-2009, 10:47 AM
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Rest in Peace , Henry. I'll remember you and the others too
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