Page last updated at 18:48 GMT, Saturday, 18 July 2009 19:48 UK

Your tributes for 'special man'

The death of World War I veteran Henry Allingham at 113 has triggered a wave of tributes from the Queen to members of the public who met him.

As the world's oldest man and one of the last surviving servicemen of the Great War, he was unique. But as BBC News website readers who contacted us attest, not just because of his age.

Lt Cdr John Scivier and Henry Allingham
Lt Cdr Scivier: "A great man whose legacy should never be forgotten"

Lt Cdr Scivier, 49, met Mr Allingham at his 111th birthday onboard HMS Victory when he was the ship's commanding officer.

He attended his next two birthdays, his doctorate presentation in Southampton and the odd garden party or two.

He said: "Henry had this unique ability to 'touch' you and I'm honoured to count myself a friend, albeit in his twilight years.

"The realisation of what he could impart and his active work after years of a life in his own wilderness marked Henry out as a very, very special man.

Sometimes laughing, sometimes silent, sometimes crying, it was a powerful lesson in oral history
Andy Thompson

"This photograph was taken at Victory, not long after he arrived. I knelt down and put my hand on his hand and talked to him.

"You get the kind of feeling where you think you've known someone for a long time, it's very peculiar to put in words. You automatically get this affinity.

"I used to say on Victory the ship spoke to you, it was almost as if Henry spoke to you."

Former headmaster Andy Thompson with pupils at the Menin Gate
Andy Thompson and pupils at the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres, Belgium

Retired headmaster Andy Thompson, 60, met Mr Allingham at his flat in Eastbourne in March 2005 through the First World War Veterans' Association.

Their paths crossed again three months later when his school hosted the "remarkable" man's 109th birthday party.

He said: "The children were so impressed, as was I, by the deep emotion as he recounted events of 90 years before.

"Sometimes laughing, sometimes silent, sometimes crying, it was a powerful lesson in oral history... these were impressionable 14 year olds, and they were very moved and taken by that.

Mr Thompson recalls the veteran's comments to the pupils about Remembrance Sunday and walking to the Cenotaph to lay a wreath.

"He said to the children 'who'd have thought that in 1918 when there were 5.7 million men in uniform, I'd be the last one walking'."

Glyn Bailey and Mr Allingham at RAF Cosford
Mr Bailey collects World War I medals

The World War I enthusiast had already met Great War veteran Harry Patch when he arranged to meet Mr Allingham at RAF Cosford in Shropshire through the veterans association.

The former artworks studio manager, 49, said he was in awe of the man who was "like an old sage".

"He was surrounded by a crowd of primary school children who were there on a school trip and Henry graciously gave up his time for them.

"They seemed fascinated to hear him speak and were hanging on his every word. He sat in his wheelchair chatting to them... he had a real affinity and they were laughing.

"I went over and walked round with him for a while. I had a book he signed and had a camera with me.

"I was privileged to speak to him... it was a moment I'll never forget. God bless him."

Henry Allingham and Admiral Sir Raymond Lygo
Mr Smith, who took this photograph, remembers the "gallant old man"

The former editor of the Fleet Air Arm Association journal met Mr Allingham in 2005 when he was presented with an honorary membership by Admiral Sir Raymond Lygo.

Mr Smith, 65, said: "Henry was remarkably lucid about many periods of his life and of modifying or "vandalising" a luxury car for an Indian prince when he worked in the motor industry between the two world wars.

"He also recounted his experience of working over Christmas 1939 developing degaussing equipment to be used by ships to counter the new marine magnetic mine menace.

"Henry had a great sense of humour and displayed an astonishing determination to attend to civic duties. I watched with tears in my eyes as he tried to stand to lay the wreath at last year's Remembrance Day in Whitehall.

"A gallant old man has passed on, I salute him and wish him peace at last for he must have suffered as he became increasingly frail. I feel privileged to have met him."


The schoolboy chorister met Mr Allingham at his 112th birthday celebrations at RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire when he sang for him.

He said: "He was a very nice man and he really enjoyed singing some of the songs he used to sing with us on that day. He had lots of interesting stories to tell us."

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