Page last updated at 16:54 GMT, Saturday, 6 June 2009 17:54 UK

UK's oldest man Allingham is 113

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Henry Allingham reveals the secret to long life

The UK's oldest man and one of Britain's two surviving WWI veterans has turned 113.

Henry Allingham joined the Royal Navy Air Service in September 1915 before transferring to the RAF in April 1918.

The Royal Navy hosted a birthday party on HMS President in London for his family, close friends and members of the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.

Mr Allingham, who lives in East Sussex, said he was looking forward to being a teenager again.

The birthday is another landmark for a man who is the last surviving founder member of the RAF and whose life has spanned three centuries and six monarchs.

He was born in Clapton in London, but later moved to Sussex. He stayed in his Eastbourne home until the age of 110 when he moved to St Dunstan's care centre for blind ex-service personnel in Ovingdean, near Brighton.

'Unexpected honour'

After being given a warm welcome at his party by generations of his family, he posed for photographers and declared: "It's wonderful, I never expected this honour."

Asked the secret of his long life, Mr Allingham said: "I don't know, but I would say be as good as you possibly can."

Were he slightly younger I would be happy to have him back
Rear Admiral Simon Charlier

As he sat outside in his wheelchair, a Mark 8 Royal Navy Lynx helicopter flew overhead.

A birthday cake and card signed by the First Sea Lord were then delivered to Mr Allingham at the dockside by fast-raiding craft of the Royal Marines.

Rear Admiral Simon Charlier, the head of the Fleet Air Arm, led a champagne toast and a rendition of "Happy Birthday".

He said: "It is an absolute privilege to host this event. This year is the centenary of naval aviation and yet Henry goes back way before that.

'Very humbled'

"We are all over-awed by Henry's longevity, but also his spirit, his fun and humour encompasses everything about the Fleet Air Arm. Were he slightly younger I would be happy to have him back.

"He helped set the professional standards back in 1915 when he joined the Royal Naval Air Service, which was a pretty difficult time going into the First World War."

Henry Allingham with his great-great grandson Erik Carlson aged 3 as
He has 14 great-great grandchildren and one great-great-great grandchild

Among the guests was Mr Allingham's grandson Timothy Gray, 53, who had flown from Michigan for the party.

He said: "He is very humbled by all the attention he gets. I talked to his nurse and she said he stayed up late last night like a little kid on Christmas Eve talking about birthday cake.

"One of the best things I heard him say is that 'I'm looking forward to becoming a teenager again'."

Mr Allingham has five grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren, 14 great-great grandchildren and one great-great-great grandchild.

In the past year Mr Allingham has been given a doctorate in engineering from Southampton Solent University, been made an honorary freeman of Brighton and Hove and become the "oldest scout".

In March, he was made an honorary member of the Royal Naval Association and also received an upgraded Legion d'Honneur in London, six years after receiving his first one.

Mr Allingham is the sole survivor of the Battle of Jutland and has also published his life story.

He became Britain's oldest ever man in March when he reached 112 years and 296 days, surpassing Welshman John Evans who died in 1990.



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SEE ALSO
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07 Apr 09 |  Sussex
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