Henry Allingham, Britain's oldest man and oldest surviving veteran of World War I, celebrated his 110th birthday on Tuesday with tributes from Queen Elizabeth II and a military fly-past. Allingham has identified the key to his old age as "cigarettes, whisky and wild, wild women."
The man, wearing a medal-adorned navy blue suit, raised a glass of orange juice from the sunny balcony of a hotel in the southeastern seaside resort of Eastbourne yesterday as two Royal Air Force (RAF) Tornado fighter jets roared past. He then called on his relatives and other guests to toast the queen, whose birthday greetings had been brought by Britain's chancellor Gordon Brown." I send my warm congratulations on the celebration of your 110th birthday on the 6th of June 2006. May your celebration be particularly happy and memorable," the letter read. "Thank you for coming to see me," Allingham told Brown earlier as tears welled up in his eyes after he had received the birthday greetings and gifts. He received from Brown a bottle of House of Commons whisky and a copy of the budget statement delivered in 1896, the year he was born. "I think the tax on whisky was a bit lower then," Brown joked. Later, Allingham enjoyed a private lunch at the hotel's Mirabelle restaurant with his family, some of whom had travelled from the US to be there.
Allingham, who has five grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren, was 18 when the World War I began in 1914, according to Brown's office. He served as a mechanic in the Royal Naval Air Service (the forebear of the RAF), flying patrols in the North Sea as a navigator and repairing aircraft and engines at the battles of the Somme and Ypres. As well as being the last remaining founder member of the RAF, he is also the sole survivor of the Battle of Jutland. He helped launch an exhibition commemorating the 90th anniversary of the World War I sea battle aboard HMS Belfast on the River Thames last week. Allingham has been awarded a string of accolades including the British War Medal, Victory Medal and the Legion d'Honneur, France's highest military honour.
In April he was given the freedom of Eastbourne, the resort to which he retired in the 1960s. Until four weeks ago he lived a relatively independent life alone in the town, but, with deteriorating eyesight, he has since moved to a care home for war veterans in nearby Ovingdean, near Brighton.
Source: China Daily