Saturday, July 18, 2009

Henry Allingham, world's oldest man and WWI veteran, 1896-2009

In contrast to Michael Jackson, here's the story of man that lived his life to the fullest!

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 naïve 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.

Godspeed Sir!
An advice to the next oldest person in the world. Do not accept the title! It seems that everybody that do, dies soon after!
A curse?

1 comment:

Sings-With-Spirits said...

He was a British national treasure and a great man.



At least he'll be ale to swap stories with Daryll "Shifty" Powers of Easy Company, immortalized in "Band of Brothers", who passed away on the 17th.