21 July 2009

RIP: Henry Allingham

Henry William Allingham
6 Jun 1896 – 18 Jul 2009

The last RAF veteran of World War I - who was also the last survivor of the Battle of Jutland - has died. According to Wikipedia:
On 13 February 2007, he became the UK's second-oldest living person, and on 29 March 2009 the oldest ever British male, surpassing Welshman John Evans who died aged 112 years and 295 days. At age 113 years, 13 days, he became the oldest living man in the world, following the death of Japanese supercentenarian Tomoji Tanabe on 19 June 2009, which was confirmed by Guinness World Records. On 18 July 2009 Allingham died of natural causes aged 113 years and 42 days. At the time of his death, he was the 14th oldest verified man of all time.

Allingham was the oldest ever surviving member of any of the British Armed Forces and the oldest surviving veteran of the First World War. He was the last survivor of the Battle of Jutland, the last surviving member of the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) and the last surviving founding member of the Royal Air Force (RAF).

ZUI this article from the BBC:
Cigarettes, whisky and wild, wild women was Henry Allingham's tongue in cheek recipe for his long life, which crossed over three centuries.


In 1914 he tried to join the Army as a despatch rider but his mother, who was ill, persuaded him to stay at home and nurse her.

She died a few months afterwards, age 42, and Henry, who later remembered feeling completely alone and with no purpose in life, joined the fledgling Royal Naval Air Service as a mechanic.

After his training he was posted to Great Yarmouth, where he maintained sea planes involved in anti submarine patrols in the North Sea and acted as an air gunner in operations to counter German Zeppelins.

He was drafted on to HM trawler Kingfisher which headed north, in May 1916, as part of the British force sent to intercept the German High Seas Fleet at Jutland.


After his discharge from the RAF he went to work for the Ford Motor Company where he remained until he retired.

His engineering expertise was called into use again in World War II where he worked on a project designed to neutralise German magnetic mines.

ZUI also this article from The Guardian:
Henry Allingham, who has died aged 113, was the last RAF and British naval veteran of the first world war. In 1916, he maintained naval aircraft during the Battle of Jutland, the conflict's greatest sea battle, and the following year he was transferred to the western front in time for the last Ypres offensive. He was Britain's oldest man, and for the last month of his life was recognised by Guinness World Records as the oldest man alive.

Allingham was born in Clapton, east London, a year before Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee of 1897 and three years before the Boer war. The Klondike gold rush was just starting and General Kitchener was campaigning in the Sudan. His father, an ironmonger, died when Henry was 14 months old. On leaving his council school, he started training as a surgical instrument maker at Bart's hospital, in central London, but found the work too dull and soon moved on to learn to make bodywork for cars. Allingham had just turned 18 when the first world war broke out and wanted to volunteer for the army as a dispatch rider. Instead, at the request of his ailing mother, he stayed at home until her death in 1915.


As air activity at sea declined, many RNAS units were transferred to the western front in 1917. In June, Air Mechanic First Class Allingham was assigned to No 12 squadron, training other transferred RNAS units. After five months he was posted to a depot at the port of Dunkirk on France's border with Belgium, where he experienced aerial bombing and shelling from land and sea as his unit struggled to repair and recover damaged aircraft.


On 1 April 1918, Allingham and his comrades swapped their naval uniforms for the grey-blue kit of the brand new Royal Air Force, product of the amalgamation of the RNAS and the army's Royal Flying Corps. Allingham was sounded out about taking an RAF commission after the war, but decided instead to marry his sweetheart, Dorothy, whom he had met in Great Yarmouth in 1915. Their marriage in 1918 lasted more than half a century until her death in 1970; they had two daughters who also predeceased him.


In 2004 he was one of four centenarian veterans who laid a wreath at the cenotaph to mark the 90th anniversary of his war. It was only in the following year that he moved into a care home. Concerned that the world should not forget the sacrifice made by the millions who died in the first world war, in his final years he decided to speak about his experiences. In November 2008, he turned out again with two other veterans, Harry Patch and Bill Stone, at the cenotaph; Stone died in January.

Allingham's memoir, Kitchener's Last Volunteer, was written with Dennis Goodwin and published in 2008. He is survived by six grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren, 21 great-great-grandchildren, and one great-great-great-grandchild.

Wikipedia's article on Allingham, quoted above, includes many links to newspaper articles about him. Kitchener's Last Volunteer is available from Amazon, amongst others.

At the time of his death Allingham was the eleventh-oldest person in the world, as well as the oldest living man. He is the fourth supercentenarian listed by the Gerontology Research Group (GRG) to die since the death of Tomoji Tanabe on 19 June; the others were Antonio Fernandes de Castro (6 Jan 1898-22 Jun 2009) of Portugal, Lucia Lauria Vigna (4 Mar 1896-28 Jun 2009) of Italy and Yoshi Kobayashi (2 Sep 1898-4 Jul 2009) of Japan.

The GRG's list of validated living supercentenarians (people who have reached their 110th birthday) currently includes 76 people (5 men and 71 women), ranging from 115-year-old Gertrude Baines of California (born 6 Apr 1894) to Grazia-Giovanna Carbonaro-Pitrolo of Italy (born 5 Apr 1899); seven of them (six women and one man) live in England.

The oldest man in the world is now 112-year-old Walter Breuning (born 21 Sep 1896) of Montana, the world's 14th-oldest living person. The oldest man in England is WWI veteran Harry Patch, 111 (born 17 June 1898), the world's 47th-oldest person and third-oldest man. (The oldest person in England is Florrie Baldwin, 113, who was born 31 Mar 1896.)

According to Wikipedia, there are now four surviving veterans of World War I - two English, one Canadian and one US.

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