Henry Allingham: Portrait of a witness to history

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The Independent Online

His face is a living memorial to the First World War, his solemnity a warning that the sacrifice of the fallen should never be forgotten. Henry Allingham, 112, is one of only four remaining British survivors of a conflict that claimed the lives of almost a million of his comrades.

And, as the nation pauses for Remembrance Sunday tomorrow, it will once again pay tribute to Mr Allingham, who is also Britain's oldest man, and his fellow survivors: Harry Patch, 110, Bill Stone, 108, and Claude Choules, 107,

It is a precious roll call that was reduced by one this week when the death of Sydney Lucas, who was born in Leicester, was announced in his home town near Melbourne, Australia. He was 108.

Speaking this week, Mr Allingham said: "You try to forget, you want to forget, but you couldn't forget. Those men must not be forgotten ever. They sacrificed everything on my behalf, and your behalf as well." He will pay his respects tomorrow from his home before joining Mr Patch and Mr Stone at the Cenotaph in Whitehall on 11 November for the silence that will mark the 90th anniversary of the end of the war.

In his First World War duty with the Royal Naval Air Service, he witnessed Jutland, the largest naval battle in history, and the battle of the Somme – one of the bloodiest.

Mr Allingham is now blind and lives at St Dunstan's home for blind ex-servicemen, in Ovingdean, Bristol.

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