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112 candles for Europe's oldest man

by Staff Writers
London (AFP) June 6, 2008
Europe's oldest man, World War I veteran Henry Allingham, was marking his 112th birthday on Friday by attending a flypast of fighter aircraft from the Battle of Britain.

The Briton -- who attributes his longevity to "cigarettes, whisky, and wild, wild women" -- will attend a display of vintage Spitfires at a Royal Air Force base in Lincolnshire, eastern England.

Born in 1896, when Queen Victoria was on the British throne and the first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens, Allingham saw active service in the Battle of Jutland in World War I and was one of the first members of the RAF.

In civilian life, he worked for carmaker Ford.

Now resident in a care home for blind former military personnel, he said he was in robust health.

"I'm a lucky guy. I am looking forward to a wonderful day and to seeing the family. I just hope I don't let the side down. People ask me how I've done it, and I just say that I look forward to another tomorrow."

Eight of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren and their partners have travelled from their homes in the United States for the occasion. Allingham's whose wife of 51 years, Dorothy, died in 1970.

Close friend Dennis Goodwin, who founded an association for World War I veterans, paid tribute to Allingham's zest for life.

"He is simply an incredible man. Each year we think that maybe this will be his last but he just seems to carry on regardless," Goodwin said.

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