Farewell our Henry, world’s oldest man at 113
PLANS have emerged this week to name a street in East London after the oldest man in the world, Henry Allingham, who died on July 18, aged 113. The man whose life spanned three centuries was born and raised in Hackney and was old enough to remember the turn-of-the-century twice
ABOVE: Henry meets the children in February at Hackney’s Northwold Primary, his old school he went to in 1900 when it was called Northwold Elementary. BELOW: Celebrating his 113th birthday just last month at the Royal Navy’s HMS President base in Wapping.
PLANS have emerged this week to name a street in East London after the oldest man in the world, Henry Allingham, who died on July 18, aged 113. The man whose life spanned three centuries was born and raised in Hackney and was old enough to remember the turn-of-the-century twice. Allie Anderson pays tribute:
HENRY Allingham will be forever etched on the heart and landscape of East London, from his humble beginnings in Clapton where he was born on June 6, 1896, if proposals to name a street in the after him go ahead.
The idea is the brainchild of Michael Desmond, a Hackney councillor, who met Henry in February when the super-centenarian visited his old home town. He feels no more fitting a tribute could be made to the 113-year-old.
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“Henry’s visits to East London kept him sprightly,” he observed. “Perhaps they contributed to him eventually becoming officially the oldest man in the world.” Henry’s varied life spanned three centuries. One of his earliest memories was witnessing returning soldiers from the Boer War parade past the Town Hall in Mare Street in 1902.
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He watched WG Grace playing cricket at Lords and remembered the Wright brother’s first aeroplane flight at Kitty Hawk in America in 1903, when he was already seven.
At 18, he wanted to join up at the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, but had to care for his critically-ill mother, who died a year later.
He joined the Royal Naval Air Service in 1915 and served on the armed trawler Kingfisher in the Battle of Jutland on May 31, 1916, one of the greatest naval battles of all time.
He also flew on many seaplane patrols and served on the Western Front as part of a crack team recovering downed aircraft, often venturing into No Mans Land.’
Henry married Dorothy Carter after the Great War and had two daughters, both of whom died in their 80s. He has six grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren, 13 great-great-grandchildren and one great-great-great-grandchild.
During his later years, he was determined to make sure the sacrifices of his Great World War comrades and soldiers in subsequent conflicts are honoured. He became the human symbol for peace as one of two surviving Great War veterans. Henry always remembered his East London roots, born in Upper Clapton, a pupil at Northwold Elementary school. His last trip to East London was in February, when he visited his old school and delighted pupils with tales from his long life.
The school’s head teacher Alison Kriel, speaking to ITV’s London Tonight after Henry’s death, said: “He told the children how much nicer they are than when he was growing up. “Normally children get a bad press’ and here was the oldest man telling them that actually, they were really nice children.”
Cllr Desmond, who accompanied Henry to the school, found in him a man of our times’ in spite of his longevity going back to late Victorian London.
He recalled: “Instead of an old-fashioned military man bemoaning youth today’, we discovered a kind-hearted gentleman, keen to comment on the progress since he lived in East London.” Henry celebrated his 113th birthday only last month, with a party given by the Royal Navy at HMS President base in Wapping, near the Tower of London.
Just weeks later, he was officially named the world’s oldest man’ following the death of the previous title-holder, Japan’s Tomoji Tanabe. Henry, who has lived under six monarchs and has seen 21 prime ministers come and go, attributed his longevity to “cigarettes, whisky and wild, wild women—and a good sense of humour.”