Europe's oldest man celebrates 112th birthday with RAF flypast

Europe's oldest man, Henry Allingham, celebrated his 112th birthday on Friday with an RAF flypast.

Born in 1896, Henry is the last founding member of the RAF, the world's oldest, and best, air force.

The RAF was known as the Flying Corps during WWI, and became the RAF in 1918 - it celebrated its 90th birthday on 1st April, the world's oldest airforce.

After World War I, when the British Empire was reaching its greatest-ever extent, the RAF was the largest air force in the world, with a mind-boggling 20,000 aircraft, dwarfing the world's largest air force of today - the US Air Force, which has a mere 6000 aircraft.

Europe's oldest man celebrates his 112th birthday - with an RAF flypast

By Daily Mail Reporter
07th June 2008
Daily Mail

The oldest man in Europe's celebrated his 112th birthday in style with a VIP lunch and flypast yesterday.

Henry Allingham lunched with dignitaries including Air Vice Marshal Peter Dye, before a Lancaster bomber, Spitfire and Hurricane honoured his achievement with a flypast at RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire.

He is the last founder member of the RAF. His life has spanned three centuries and six monarchs and he is just one of three known UK survivors from the First World War.

He said: 'I'm a lucky guy. I am looking forward to a wonderful day and to seeing the family.

'People ask me how I've done it, and I just say that I look forward to another tomorrow.'

Europe's oldest man Henry Allingham celebrates his 112th birthday

The parachute display by the RAF Falcons was cancelled due to low cloud but the team jumped out of a Chinook helicopter instead to present Mr Allingham with a birthday card signed by the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy.

After the presentation, a Lancaster bomber flanked by two spitfires flew over the college lawn in front of Mr Allingham and his 44 guests, who included his great-great-grandchildren Erik Carlson, two, and four-month-old Lila Rose Gray.

After WWI, the RAF was the world's largest air force, with 20,000 aircraft (the USAF today has just 6000). Henry is the last founding member of the world's oldest airforce. (Above), RAF personnel attending to an aircraft in 1919.

A two-seater single-engine Tutor aircraft then performed an acrobatic display above the college's main building for the assembled guests.

Asked for the secret of long life Mr Allingham said: 'I don't think there's a particular reason.

The only thing I can say is all my life I have lived within my limitations, take life slowly, don't get any stress or strains. The more birthdays I enjoy the longer I live.

'The fly past was a very nice gesture and I want to show my appreciation for what you have done. My best wishes to you all.'

Henry is presented with a birthday card by members of the RAF

Air Vice Marshal Peter Dye paid tribute to Mr Allingham's achievement of reaching 112.

'Henry is a most modest man but I also think he is the most incredible of individuals.

'He has a passion and a determination to tell people about his experiences and to bear witness to those who served like him in World War One.

'He recognises that he was incredibly lucky to survive the experience and he knows he is only one of a few surviving veterans but he is determined to talk about his experiences and about what it meant.'

Many of Mr Allingham's family had flown over from America to watch the celebrations, in what is the 90th anniversary year of the RAF.

David Gray, 59, from northern Michigan, said his grandfather, Mr Allingham, was the joint-second oldest person in the world.

The event was also attended by Vice Admiral Sir Adrian Johns (Second Sea Lord and commander-in-chief Naval Home Command).

The Government announced two years ago that the death of the last known First World War veteran would be marked by a national memorial service at Westminster Abbey.

Passing wisdom through the generations: Henry speaks to younger RAF personnel about his experiences
Aww... look at those young kids around him! What a remarkable man still at 112! He doesn't even wear glasses! I think it is just great and so fitting how the RAF honored him.

My Dad was also a soldier of WWI, but he passed away almost 30 years ago. How the time flies... he would have been interested to read this story.

Thanks, Blackleaf, for posting this as well as adding a few amazing numbers of the RAF. The comparison with todays US Air Force is just about unbelievable!! I would have thought the States had way more military air craft.

Well, I wish Henry all the best - he is a great inspiration!
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