Britain's oldest WWI survivor honoured by France

17th March 2009, Comments 0 comments

The 112-year-old veteran says he hopes there will be no more wars.

LONDON – Britain's oldest surviving World War I veteran was awarded one of France's highest honours on Monday - and promptly said he hoped there will be "no more wars".

Henry Allingham, who at 112 is also Britain's oldest man, was given the Legion d'Honneur medal by Ambassador Maurice Gourdault-Montagne for his services to promote peace.

"There will be no more wars, I hope. There will be one big nation," he said at a ceremony at the ambassador's residence, adding: "It's a tragedy you can never forget."

He added: "I'm so happy that I can be here with you today."

"I never thought in my wildest dreams that such a thing could happen," he said, adding that he had "of course" long forgotten his French, but remembered the "beautiful" red wine and cheese of his youth.

His grandson David Gray, who flew in from Michigan for the occasion, said: "Despite his years, he still enjoys a joke and is as sharp as ever.

"He's determined to ensure that today's generation does not forget the sacrifice of those who fought in World War I and World War II.

"I'm delighted for him to be receiving this mark of such gratitude from the French people."

Britain's Veterans Minister Kevan Jones said Allingham had visited schools to help children "remember the sacrifice thousands of British soldiers made in World War I and ensured that they understand the debt of gratitude we owe them."

The minister said the Legion d'Honneur was "a wonderful tribute to Henry's bravery and commitment."

Allingham, born in 1896, saw active service in the Battle of Jutland in World War I and was one of the founding members of the Royal Air Force.

Another of the three surviving Britons to have fought in World War I, 110-year-old Harry Patch, was awarded the same honour by France last week.

The other survivor, 107-year-old Claude Choules, now lives in Australia.

AFP / Expatica

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