Friday, October 31, 2008

One Of the Last Survivors

Henry Allingham is the last survivor of the RAF from the Great War, and is seen here speaking to Flt Lt Anthony 'Parky' Parkinson of 29 Squadron Photo: ANDREW CROWLEY

Survivors' Tales Of The Great War, 90 Years On
-- The Telegraph

Next month marks the 90th anniversary of the end of the Great War, a conflict which consumed the lives of more than 20 million soldiers and civilians. Today just a handful of men who served and fought in the war survive. Sean Rayment profiles the last two British men who fought in the conflict.

Henry Allingham was desperate to do his bit when the call went up for volunteers at the outbreak of the Great War in 1914.

But his desperately-ill mother begged him to stay at home and tend to her. Had she not, Mr Allingham, like so many of his generation, may well have perished on the battlefields of northern France.

But after her death the young man, from Clapham, south London, enlisted in the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) as an engineer in 1915, and went onto serve in the some of the most bloody battles of the entire conflict.

Despite the odds, Mr Allingham survived and today, at 112, he is Britain's oldest living man and a living link to one of the greatest human catastrophes of the modern age.

Mr Allingham was born in 1896 when Queen Victoria was still on the throne and powered flight was still more than six years away.

His hearing or eyesight might not be what it was, but according to those who care for him at the blind ex-serviceman's charity, St Dunstan's, he still enjoys a joke and his mind is as sharp as ever.

Astonishingly, Mr Allingham can still recall seeing WG Grace playing cricket in 1903. He also remembers the frightening sight of shells ricocheting across the sea during the Battle of Jutland, which was fought off the coast of Denmark in the North Sea in June 1916.

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