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Author: Subject: World's oldest man, WWI veteran dies

True Peach





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  posted on 7/18/2009 at 07:35 AM

LONDON The world's oldest man, 113-year-old World War I veteran Henry Allingham, died Saturday after spending his final years reminding Britain about the 9 million soldiers killed during the conflict.

Allingham 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.

"I want everyone to know," he told The Associated Press during an interview in November. "They died for us."

Only a handful of World War I veterans remain of the estimated 68 million mobilized. There are no French veterans left alive; the last living American-born veteran is Frank Woodruff Buckles of Charles Town, West Virginia.

"It's the end of a era a very special and unique generation," said Allingham's longtime friend, Dennis Goodwin, who confirmed Allingham's death. "The British people owe them a great deal of gratitude."

Born June 6, 1896, Allingham left school at 15 and was working in a car factory in east London when war broke out in 1914.

He spent the war's first months refitting trucks for military use, but when his mother died in June 1915, he decided to join up after seeing a plane circling a reservoir in Essex, east of London.

"It was a captivating sight," he wrote in his memoir. "Fascinated, I sat down on the grass verge to watch the aircraft. I decided that was for me."

Only a dozen years after the Wright brothers first put up their plane, Allingham and other airmen set out from eastern England on motorized kites made with wood, linen and wire. They piled on clothes and smeared their faces in Vaseline, whale oil or engine grease to block the cold.

"To be honest, all the planes were so flimsy and unpredictable as well as incapable of carrying large fuel loads at the start of the war that both British and German pilots would immediately turn back rather than face each other in the skies if they did not enjoy height supremacy," Allingham would later write." "But I remember getting back on the ground and just itching to take off again."

As a mechanic, Allingham's job was to maintain the rickety craft. He also flew as an observer on a biplane. At first, his weaponry consisted of a standard issue Lee Enfield .303 rifle sometimes two. Parachutes weren't issued.

He fought in the Battle of Jutland, the largest naval battle of World War I. He served on the Western Front, by now armed with a machine gun.

He was wounded in the arm by shrapnel during an attack on an aircraft depot, but survived.

After the war he worked at the Ford motor factory and raised two children with his wife, Dorothy. She died in 1970, and when his daughter Jean died in 2001, friends say he waited to die, too.

That's when he met Goodwin, a lay inspector for nursing homes, who realized that veterans of Allingham's generation were not getting the care they needed to address the trauma they had experienced at the Somme, Gallipoli and Ypres. Some veterans ached to return to the battle fields to pay their respects to their slain friends, and Goodwin found himself organizing trips to France.

He encouraged Allingham to share his experiences and the veteran soon began talking to reporters and school groups, the connection to a lost generation. He found himself leading military parades. He was made an Officer of France's Legion of Honor.

He met Queen Elizabeth II and wrote his autobiography with Goodwin, "Kitchener's Last Volunteer," a reference to Britain's Minister for War who rallied men to the cause. Prince Charles wrote the introduction.

He grew accustomed to being one of the last ones standing. Last year, he joined Harry Patch, Britain's last soldier, and the late Bill Stone, its last sailor, in a ceremony at the Cenotaph war memorial near the houses of Parliament in London, to mark the 90th anniversary of the war's end.

As the wreaths were being laid, Allingham pushed himself up out of his wheelchair to place his arrangement at the base of the memorial.

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 says 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.

 

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Zen Peach



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  posted on 7/18/2009 at 07:49 AM
quote:
"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."
Bless him. Rest peacefully Henry.

Thanks for sharing this article, Kenny. Mr. Allingham sounds like he led quite a life and I'm thinking I may need to see if I can find Kitchener's Last Volunteer and read more about him.

quote:
Only a dozen years after the Wright brothers first put up their plane, Allingham and other airmen set out from eastern England on motorized kites made with wood, linen and wire. They piled on clothes and smeared their faces in Vaseline, whale oil or engine grease to block the cold.
Wow. Kites and vaseline/whale oil/engine oil instead of glass and metal ... hard to fathom what flight must have been back then.

 

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Ultimate Peach



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  posted on 7/18/2009 at 12:11 PM
I was raised by my paternal Grandfather who spent four years on the Western Front. How he survived still stupefies me.

In the middle of summer nineteen fourteen
The young men of europe all in their prime
Ahead lay the horrors of a world insane
It haunts me now to think about that time
One assassination leads to a clash of nations
Everybody talkin' war. a country worth fighting for
But how was anyone to know that hell was in store
Sign a dotted line and give a man a gun
Don't worry boys, you'll all be home by christmas
But little by little the lights were going out
And heading for the front line the men were listless
Wondering in the rain will they ever see home again
Slaughter is about to start. best friends are blown apart
Never been a bloodier war in memory before
Shelling day and night driving men insane
Screams of the dyng in no man's land
Nowhere to run from the gas attacks
And everywhere you turn there's another blind man
Losing life and limb. gangrene and rot set in
Weapons out to kill and maim. the boys are cryn' out in pain
Never be the same again. never see an end
If you ever get to france see the poppies in the fields
Just think about the red of the blood of heroes
Who died in the fury of battle day and night
The carnage of war all around when the sun rose
All the mud and rain. machine gun fire again
Never gonna leave that trench. wallow in the mud ad stench
Dyin' on a stretcher bench. time to say goodbye
A generation lost, four deadly years
Families left behind to a life of grieving
Ten million graves to be left untended
Nothing anymore left to believe in
Bodies ripped and torn long before i was born
But all those fine young men. never see their like again
I can vividly recall the pain down through the years

 

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