Alex Massie Alex Massie

The Oldest Man in the World

Henry Allingham, Britain`s oldest man and oldest surviving First World War veteran celebrates his 113th birthday at HMS President at St Katherine`s Dock, London, on June 6, 2009. To commemorate such a historic milestone the Royal Navy is helping their oldest member to celebrate in style. A birthday cake and card signed by the First Sea Lord will be delivered by fast raiding craft of the Royal Marines, and a decanter of Pussers Rum, Henry’s favourite tipple, will be presented on behalf of the Fleet Air Arm by Rear Admiral Charlier. Photo: Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty Images

Henry Allingham isn’t merely Britain’s oldest man; he’s now the oldest man on earth, outlasting Japan’s Tomoji Tanabe. Patrick Kidd has a lovely post that puts this extraordinary longevity in its proper context:

I met Allingham two years ago when he was a mere 110. He had been invited to the Oval, where he delighted the Surrey members by reminiscing about the players he had seen. “Jack Hobbs was my pin-up boy,” he said of the batsman who made his Test debut in 1908. “There used to be a clock in the pavilion at the Oval and I remember Hobbs always tried to smash its face with the ball. I never saw him do it, but he had a good try.” But more astounding than that, Allingham recalled seeing WG Grace, who died in 1915. “I was about 4 or 5 and I saw him at Leytonstone,” Allingham said. “He was big, square-built with a beard, but he walked like an old man and I recall him wearing pads that were too big for him.” Delightfully, Allingham admitted that what he most remembered about the day was the quality of the lunch and the sunshine.

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