World's oldest man, Henry Allingham, dies

LONDON Sat Jul 18, 2009 11:14pm BST

1 of 2. World War One veteran Henry Allingham looks at a card displaying a picture of a World War One pilot during his 113th birthday party at HMS President in London in this June 6, 2009 file photo. Allingham, who was born in 1896 and was the world's oldest man and Britain's oldest war veteran, died on Saturday, July 18, 2009, aged 113.

Credit: Reuters/Luke MacGregor/Files

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LONDON (Reuters) - Henry Allingham, the world's oldest man and one of the last survivors of World War One, has died at the age of 113, his care home said on Saturday.

Allingham, who once jokingly credited his long life to "cigarettes, whisky and wild, wild women," died in his sleep at the St. Dunstan's care home near Brighton.

"He died very peacefully and very comfortably in his sleep," a spokeswoman for the home said. "It was a sad day. We are all very saddened .... There was nothing specific, he was just 113."

Allingham, who became the world's oldest man in June, following the death of Tomoji Tanabe of Japan, had five grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren, 14 great-great grandchildren and one great-great-great grandchild.

He was born in 1896, the same year Henry Ford created the Ford Quadricycle, the forerunner of the modern day car. Queen Victoria was still on the throne when he was a small boy.

In all, his life spanned three centuries and five British monarchs. He lived for 113 years and 42 days.

During World War One he served with the Royal Naval Air Service, fighting at the Battle of Jutland, the largest sea battle of the war.

He later transferred to the Royal Air Force when it was created at the end of the war in 1918. He was the last surviving founder member of the force.

"His knowledge of the war, his personality, his character, they were all remarkable," said the care home spokeswoman.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who met Allingham at veterans' day commemorations, offered his condolences to his family.

"I had the privilege of meeting Henry many times. He was a tremendous character, one of the last representatives of a generation of tremendous characters," said Brown.

"My thoughts are with his family as they mourn his passing but celebrate his life."

A spokeswoman for Buckingham Palace said Queen Elizabeth was saddened to hear of his death.

"He was one of the generation who sacrificed so much for us all," he said. "Her thoughts are with his family during this time."

Allingham's wife Dorothy, whom he married in 1918, died in 1970, after more than 50 years of marriage. Allingham outlived both of his daughters from the marriage, but his extended family lives on, with most relatives living in the United States.

Towards the later part of his life, Allingham played a large role in telling his story and informing younger generations about World War One. Those who heard him speak praised the strength of his memory and his firm voice.

His funeral is due to take place later this month in Brighton, care home officials said.

(Editing by Sophie Hares)

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