World's oldest man dies aged 113

By AFP

June 18, 2010 Updated Jul 18, 2009 at 1:11 PM EST

Henry Allingham, the world's oldest man and oldest World War I veteran, who put his longevity down to "cigarettes, whisky and wild, wild women", died Saturday at the age of 113.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Gordon Brown led the tributes to Allingham, who symbolised the stoicism of the last generation of servicemen who saw the horrors of the Great War.

The veteran spoke of his experiences in the 1914-1918 conflict in order to remember fallen comrades shorn of the chance to live as long has he did and hoped there would be "no more wars".

In moving scenes last November, the frail, wheelchair-bound Allingham tried for minutes to lay his wreath himself as he led the country in marking the 90th anniversary of the armistice.

Allingham spent his 113th birthday on June 6 at a party hosted by the Royal Navy. He become the world's oldest man on June 17, Guinness World Records confirmed, when the previous holder, Tomoji Tanabe of Japan, died aged 113.

The world's oldest man now is a 112-year-old American, Walter Breuning, who was born on September 21, 1896. The world's oldest woman is Gertrude Baines, a 115-year-old American.

"The queen was saddened to hear of the death of Henry Allingham," a Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said. "He was one of the generation who sacrificed so much for us all.

With his sight and hearing failing, Allingham spent his last years in a nursing home on the southern English coast. He died peacefully in his sleep.

Robert Leader, chief executive of St Dunstan's care home in Ovingdean, near Brighton, said Allingham was "very active right up to his final days."

"As well as possessing a great spirit of fun, he represented the last of a generation who gave a very great deal for us," he said.

Allingham also expressed "very strong words of admiration" for British troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, Leader added.

A funeral will take place later this month in Brighton.

"He was a tremendous character, one of the last representatives of a generation of tremendous characters," said prime minister Brown, who recalled meeting him "several times".

Allingham's nephew Ronald Cator, 75, said his uncle "had an incredible life -- a hard one, and an enjoyable one in the last few years."

Allingham had five grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, 14 great-great grandchildren and one great-great-great grandchild.

Dorothy Allingham, his wife of 51 years, died in 1970, a decade after he had retired. In civilian life, he worked for carmaker Ford.

Born in Clapton, northeast London, Allingham witnessed three different centuries and saw six British monarchs on the throne.

A mechanic in the Royal Naval Air Service, he took part in the naval Battle of Jutland in 1916 and was one of the founding members of the Royal Air Force when it was formed in 1918.

With Allingham's death the only British World War I survivors are 110-year-old Harry Patch and 107-year-old Claude Choules, who lives in Australia.




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