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Last Updated: Friday, 21 April 2006, 13:49 GMT 14:49 UK
WWI veteran honoured by home town
Henry Allingham and Eastbourne's Mayor
Eastbourne's Mayor Graham Marsden jokes with Henry Allingham
Britain's oldest known World War I veteran wiped away a tear as he was awarded the freedom of the seaside town where he has lived for 40 years.

Henry Allingham, 109, was handed a scroll, a badge of honour and a bottle of malt whisky by Graham Marsden, Mayor of Eastbourne in East Sussex.

Mr Allingham said the whisky, along with "cigarettes and wild, wild women", was the secret of his long life.

The freedom ceremony was postponed last month when Mr Allingham was taken ill.

He was admitted to hospital with a chest infection but released after a few days.

On Friday he was in good health as he stood to receive the scroll, supported by his friend Dennis Goodwin.

It is a privilege to be able to honour a man who has been alive in three separate centuries
Ian Lucas

He was wearing the Legion D'Honneur medal, France's highest military honour, which he received in Eastbourne in 2003.

Mr Allingham said he was deeply honoured to receive the freedom of Eastbourne.

"I have a lot to thank the town for and it has brought me so much happiness living here," he said.

"I would like to say to everyone, 'Come to Eastbourne'."

Council leader Ian Lucas said: "It is a privilege to be able to honour a man who has been alive in three separate centuries.

"It is truly humbling to be in the presence of a man who saw action in the First World War."

Mr Allingham, who turns 110 on 6 June, began his military career as an Air Mechanic Second Class in September 1915.

He joined the Royal Naval Air Service, serving on the armed trawler HMT Kingfisher, which was involved in the greatest naval battle of the Great War, the Battle of Jutland in 1916.

He transferred to the newly-formed RAF in 1918 and remained in the service until he was discharged in 1919.

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