Sunday, July 19, 2009
LONDON – Only death could silence Henry Allingham.Allingham, who was the world's oldest man when he died Saturday at 113, attributed his remarkable longevity to "cigarettes, whisky and wild, wild women."
Jokes aside, he was a modest man who served as Britain's conscience, reminding young people time and time again about the true cost of war.
"I want everyone to know," he told The Associated Press during an interview in November. "They died for us."
He was the last surviving original member of the Royal Air Force, which was formed in 1918. He made it a personal crusade to talk about a conflict that wiped out much of a generation. Though nearly blind, he would take the outstretched hands of visitors in both of his, gaze into the eyes of children, veterans and journalists and deliver a message he wanted them all to remember about those left on the battlefield.
"I don't want to see them forgotten," he would say quietly. "We were pals."
Only a handful of World War I veterans remain of the estimated 68 million mobilized. There are no French veterans left alive; just one left now in Britain; and the last living American-born veteran is Frank Woodruff Buckles of Charles Town, West Virginia. The man believed to have been Germany's last surviving soldier has also died.File - Britain's oldest man Henry Allingham aged 112 and the last British serviceman alive to have volunteered for active duty in the First World War, holds a copy of his book at a launch in London, in this Sept.23, 2008 file photo. St Dunstan's care home in Ovingdean, near Brighton on England's south coast, says Allingham died early Saturday July 18, 2009. He was one of only two surviving World War I veterans in Britain and had been the world's oldest man since June 19. He was 113.Allingham remained outspoken until his death, pleading for peace and begging anyone who would listen to remember those who died.
"I think we need to make people aware that a few men gave all they had to give so that you could have a better world to live in," he said. "We have to pray it never happens again."
Goodwin said Allingham's funeral will take place in Brighton. He is survived by five grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren, 14 great-great grandchildren and one great-great-great grandchild.