Page last updated at 19:28 GMT, Monday, 16 March 2009

Oldest veteran gets French honour

Henry Allingham salutes as he listens to a speech at his medal ceremony
Henry Allingham made a call for peace after receiving the honour

Britain's oldest man and one of the last World War I veterans has received one of France's highest honours.

Henry Allingham, who is 112 and lives in Sussex, was awarded the Legion d'Honneur at the official London residence of the French ambassador.

He is already a chevalier of the Legion D'Honneur and was made the higher rank of officier at the ceremony.

Speaking afterwards, he said: "I never thought in my wildest dreams that such a thing could happen."

Mr Allingham is the last surviving original member of the Royal Air Force, formed in 1918.

He is also the last survivor of the Battle of Jutland in 1916.

Mr Allingham, who lives at St Dunstan's home for blind ex-servicemen, in Ovingdean, near Brighton, had a book he co-wrote about his life published in 2008.

There will be no more wars, I hope. There will be one big nation
Henry Allingham

Established by Napoleon Bonaparte in May 1802, the Legion d'Honneur is awarded for gallantry in action or 25 years' distinguished service in military or civilian life.

It has five ranks: chevalier, officier, commandeur, grand officier and grand croix.

Awarding him the medal, the French ambassador Maurice Gourdault-Montagne stressed that France, through him, wanted to pay tribute to the hundreds of thousands of British and French "brothers in arms" of the First World War.

"You remain a living witness to those dreadful events and to this terrible war that has cast its shadow 90 years since," he told the veteran.

Mr Allingham, who has dedicated much of his time in recent years to giving talks to schoolchildren about his experiences, also made a call for peace after receiving the honour on Monday.

"There will be no more wars, I hope. There will be one big nation," he said.

Harry Patch, 110, the last surviving Tommy to have served on the Western Front, was likewise made an officer of the Legion d'Honneur by the ambassador at his Somerset care home last week.


Mr Allingham, who lives near Brighton, was at times moved to tears

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Telegraph Britain's oldest man awarded Legion of Honour - 15 hrs ago
Biggleswade Chronicle Legion honour for UK's oldest man - 16 hrs ago

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