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Europe

World's oldest man, British WWI veteran, dies at 113

Video by Katherine SPENCER

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-11-11

British Henry Allingham, the world's oldest man and oldest World War I veteran, has died at 113 in a nursing home. Events he lived through included Queen Victoria's death in 1901, the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, and the Wall Street crash of 1929.

AFP - Henry Allingham, the world's oldest man and oldest World War I veteran, died Saturday at the age of 113, the nursing home in Britain where he spent his last years said.

Allingham, who in 2008 led the country in marking the 90th anniversary of the World War I armistice, put his longevity down to "cigarettes, whisky and wild, wild women."

"Everybody at St Dunstan's is saddened by Henry's loss and our sympathy goes out to his family," said Robert Leader, chief executive of St Dunstan's care home in Ovingdean, near Brighton on the south England coast.

He had become the world's oldest man on June 17, Guinness World Records confirmed, when the previous holder, Tomoji Tanabe of Japan, died aged 113.

Allingham had marked his 113th birthday on June 6.

Leader 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.

"Henry made many friends among the residents and staff at St Dunstan's. He was a great character and will be missed."

A funeral will take place later this month in Brighton.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown led the tributes to the veteran.

"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," he said.

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

Allingham lived in three different centuries and saw six British monarchs on the throne.

Events he lived through included 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.

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, which was formed in 1918.

"I am greatly saddened to hear of the death of Henry Allingham," said Britain's Veterans Minister Kevan Jones.

"For one of his age, his vigour for life was extraordinary.

"I was humbled to meet somebody who had led such an amazing life and we owe such a huge debt of gratitude to him and his generation. My thoughts are with his family."

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.

Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, described Allingham as "one of our nation's historic treasures" in the foreword to the veteran's 2008 autobiography, "Kitchener's Last Volunteer".

"He does not want modern society to forget what his generation gave for our futures but, equally, the message of peace and reconciliation is one that he desires to convey above all else," Charles wrote.

"We should all be humbled by this quiet, genial man and his desire to extol peace and friendship to the world, despite all the horrors he witnessed at such a young and impressionable age."

The world's oldest man is now 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.

Date created : 2009-07-18

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