Sunday, 19 July 2009

At road’s end: Henry Allingham (1896-2009), WWI veteran and world’s oldest man

Henry Allingham, one of the very few surviving WWI veterans and the oldest man in the world, died peacefully in his sleep at the nursing home St Dunstan’s in Ovingdean near Brighton at 3.10 a.m. yesterday. He was 113 years and 42 days old.
Born on 6 June 1896, he was 18 at the outbreak of World War I. In 1916 he took part in the Battle of Jutland, whose last survivor he was, and later transferred to the RAF when it was founded. He was also the last living founding member of the RAF.
As the number of WWI veterans dwindled and Allingham lived on, he became an increasingly popular person to interview for commemorative events and thereby shot to fame after he had turned 105. Crediting his great age to “cigarettes, whisky and wild, wild women - and a sense of humour”, he enjoyed good health well into his ripe old age. At the 90th anniversary of the end of WWI in November last year he had intended to stand as he laid his wreath at the Cenotaph, but in the end could not find his feet.
Turning 113 in June he said he was glad to be a teenager again. That same month he also became the oldest man in the world. Queen Elizabeth II led the tributes yesterday, saying Allingham belonged to a generation who “sacrificed so much for us all”.
Allingham was a widower since 1970 and although they lived to their 80s, both his children predeceased him. He leaves five grandchildren, twelve great-grandchildren, fourteen great-great-grandchildren and one great-great-great-grandchild.
The passing of Henry Allingham leaves Harry Patch, who is 111, as the last surviving WWI veteran in Britain.

Obituary in the Guardian:


  1. Sir,

    It will be interesting to see if any of 4 (6 if one is generous) remaining surviving veterans survive until the upcoming centennial in about five years time.

    Interesting too it will be to see who is the "last man standing" -- perhaps especially if we include the last surviving Crown Prince of the war in such a "contest."

    BTW, Harry Patch may be the last surviving WWI veteran in Britain, but he is not the last surviving British WWI veteran.

    There's Claude Choules as well. In WWII, he served with Australia, where he lives today.

  2. Yes, I am aware of the existence of Claude Choules, which was why I chose the phrase “last surviving WWI veteran in Britain”. If I have understood correctly it is however after the passing of the last veteran in Britain (ie. Harry Patch) that one will hold the memorial service for all those who fought in that war, which was agreed upon in stead of the proposed state funeral for the last survivor.

    For any veteran to be alive for the centenary would be quite an achievement, but was there not a Waterloo veteran alive a century after that battle? I think that was a man who had participated in that decisive battle as a very young drummer boy.

    Speaking of the last surviving crown prince, Otto von Habsburg is apparently recovering well after he was injured in a bad fall some weeks ago.


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