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Latest update : 2009-11-11

British World War I veteran Henry Allingham, 113, has become the oldest living man after the death of Japan's Tomoji Tanabe. The London-born Great War veteran was one of the founding members of the Royal Air Force in 1918.

AFP - British World War I veteran Henry Allingham was named Friday as the world's oldest man after the death of the Japanese record holder -- and a close friend said he would "take it in his stride."
Guinness World Records said 113-year-old Allingham, who was born in Clapham, south London, on June 6, 1896, took over the mantle after Tomoji Tanabe died at his home in southern Japan earlier in the day.
"It's staggering. He (Allingham) is philosophical. He will take it in his stride, like he does everything else," said Allingham's close friend and spokesman, Dennis Goodwin.
"He withdraws in himself and he chews it over like he does all the things he has done in his life. That's his secret I think".
Allingham has lived in three different centuries, seen six British monarchs on the throne, and has five grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren, 14 great-great grandchildren and one great-great-great grandchild.
An 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, which was formed in 1918.
He is one of only two surviving veterans in Britain of the 1914-18 conflict.
Events he has lived through include the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, the invention of television by John Logie Baird in the 1920s and the Wall Street crash of 1929.
In March, he was awarded France's Legion d'Honneur and voiced hope for the end of military conflict. "There will be no more wars, I hope. There will be one big nation," he said. "It's a tragedy you can never forget."
His Japanese predecessor as the world's oldest man passed away with his relatives at his bedside, said an official in Miyakonojo City, where he lived. He had suffered from a chronic heart problem.
When Tanabe turned 113 on September 18, he said the secret to his longevity was a big appetite but a strict diet, together with avoiding alcohol, cigarettes and snacks.
After Allingham, the world's next oldest man is American Walter Breuning, who was born on September 21, 1896, according to Damian Field of Guinness World Records.
The world's oldest known person is 115-year-old Gertrude Baines who lives in Los Angeles.
Allingham, who lives in a care home for blind former armed services staff near Brighton, on the southern English coast, is one of three British World War I veterans still alive.
Of the other two, Harry Patch, the only surviving infantryman from the trenches, was also awarded the Legion d'Honneur in March, and celebrated his 111th birthday on Wednesday.
The youngest survivor, 107-year-old Claude Choules, was in the navy and now lives in Australia.
The care home's chief executive, Robert Leader, said: "We are proud to be caring for such a remarkable man. He has just celebrated his 113th birthday and, knowing Henry as I do, he will take the news in his stride."
Nigel Huxtable of the Royal Naval Assocation -- of which Allingham is an honorary lifetime member -- welcomed Friday's news.
"Our association members are thrilled to share his good news. We are delighted that he is now the oldest man in the world and look forward to him stretching his life even further," he said.
Goodwin added: "I was with him just yesterday and ironically enough we were talking about him popping his clogs.
"He's getting a little bit frail now, his taste is non-existent so he can't enjoy eating or drinking.
"He doesn't have as much strength as before, but he is still willing. He still wants to go out."

Date created : 2009-06-19