Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Moving Finger, having writ....Oldest Man Dies.

More significant to me than the passing of Walter Cronkite would be the passing of Henry Allingham (1896-2009), veteran of the "Great War."
The Mail - "Mr. Allingham once attributed his grand age to 'cigarettes, whisky and wild, wild women'.

He became the UK's oldest man on January 19, 2007, aged 110 years 227 days.

The oldest surviving member of the Armed Forces held a clutch of honours, including the British War Medal, Victory Medal and the Legion d'Honneur - the highest military accolade awarded by France.

His grandson, Tim Gray, described him in recent years as 'unbelievable'.

He said: 'He is a really incredible man with a great sense of humour.'

Born in London on June 6, 1896, Mr Allingham's father died when he was a baby.

He once said he thought joining the war effort would be an adventure, not realising what it meant.

He was initially persuaded to remain at home by his mother.

'War's stupid,' he told the BBC. 'Nobody wins. You might as well talk first, you have to talk last anyway.'

In September 1915, following his mother's death, he joined the Royal Navy Air Service (RNAS) and was sent to France, maintaining seaplanes.

Enthusiastic to play his part, pilots would take him flying and he would take the role of a spotter or a bomber.

In late 1917, Mr Allingham was posted to an aircraft depot in Dunkirk and became a member of the Royal Air Force following the merger of the RNAS and the Royal Flying Corps.

The great-grandfather was the last founder member of the RAF and the only remaining survivor of the infamous Battle of Jutland off the Danish coast in 1916.

He had a miraculous escape from his ship, the Kingfisher, when a German shell heading directly for it bounced over the top.

He described to the Daily Mail how he remained haunted by scenes from the third battle of Ypres.

'They would just stand there in two feet 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.

'In many ways I don't think they have ever got the admiration and respect they deserved.'

He was also shot in the arm, telling the newspaper: 'The bullet passed through my arm and out the other side.

'They just bandaged me up and sent me out again. It's so long ago that the scar has gone.'

In 1919 he left the air force after service at Cologne as part of the Army of Occupation.

He was married to his late wife Dorothy for more than half a century.

During the Second World War, Mr Allingham's engineering skills were vital to designing counter measures to the Germans' magnetic mines.

In 1941, he helped defuse the mines that had been used to blockade Harwich harbour.

Mr Allingham told the BBC: 'Like so many, I have tried to forget my time in the war.

'In the last few years I have met other veterans, and we never spoke one word of the war, not one.' "

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