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Last Updated: Sunday, 13 November 2005, 01:30 GMT
Smell of death 'stays with you always'
Henry Allingham
At 109, Henry Allingham is one of 10 British survivors of World War I
Two veterans with an age difference of nearly 80 years paid tribute to their fallen comrades at the Cenotaph in London for Remembrance Sunday.

Their experiences of war may be divided by decades, but World War I veteran Henry Allingham, and L/Cpl David Hart, who has recently served in Afghanistan, are united on one point - those who gave their lives for their country must never be forgotten.

The recent deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq have shown that as annual tribute to the UK's armed forces, Remembrance Day is just as relevant today as ever.

When the guns finally fell silent to end the Great War at 11 o'clock on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, Mr Allingham had lived through the Battle of Jutland, served in what was to later become the RAF and had survived the Western Front (despite being shot in the arm).

The stench of death is sweet, he has previously said, and it stays with you always.

One night while recovering aircraft in the Ypres Salient, he fell into a ditch full of rotting rats and body parts.

Now aged 109, he has not forgotten such experiences.

Henry Allingham during World War I
Henry Allingham enlisted at the age of 19

Mr Allingham, who was in France on Friday to mark Armistice Day, paid tribute to his fallen comrades.

"You can't help but recall them," he told the BBC. "The pals who you saw destroyed, it wasn't very nice."

While he has always tried to forget the horrors of the Great War, with just nine other British survivors still alive, suddenly it has become important for Mr Allingham, from Eastbourne, East Sussex, to remember.

"By coming here, you recall things you want to forget. I do the best I can. I come here to pay homage to these brave men," he said in France.

"I dare not think about things too much because I would not be able to control myself. I take a deep breath.

Scene of the blast in which L/Cpl Hart was injured
L/Cpl Hart was found wandering on fire after the blast in January 2004

"But you and I owe so much to these men who gave all they could have given on my behalf and everyone's behalf. It is so important that we acknowledge them."

For 29-year-old L/Cpl Hart, who was seriously injured in a suicide car bombing in 2004 which killed a comrade, the reality of war is also hard to forget. His wounds are a daily reminder.

A former member of the Territorial Army, he has lost the use of his left hand and severe nerve damage has rendered most of his left arm useless.

"Everyday things seem quite trivial now," he said, "but then again it's the trivial things that can be quite stressful, like tying my shoe laces."

The soldier, from Tiverton, Devon, was on patrol in a Land Rover in the capital Kabul when a taxi exploded.

He was blown into a nearby field and later found wandering and still on fire by locals.

To this day, his memory of the event is hazy.

This year he has been part of the Royal British Legion's Poppy Appeal campaign.

L/Cpl David Hart
L/Cpl Hart suffered severe head injuries and nerve damage

"I think it is right that we remember people like myself and the friends I have lost, as well as past conflicts," he said.

"All the focus is on World War I this year, but I think in this day and age we are pretty much involved in some area of conflict almost daily," he said.

"And there are fundamental ways in which it's the same - we are still upholding people's freedom to live the way the wish."

But even he says what soldiers went through in both World Wars was "beyond comprehension".

The kind of trauma he suffered, they suffered on an almost daily basis.

"I think what happened to me really brought home the wide-reaching impact that something like that can have," he said.

"And to remember it for one day a year is not a lot to ask of people."


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