One of the World War I's last remaining veterans released a new book Tuesday tracing the arc of his 112-year life.
Henry Allingham — one of only a handful of survivors of the Great War — joked with reporters as he signed copies of “Kitchener's Last Volunteer” at an event at the Royal Air Force Club in central London.
The book, a reference to British War Secretary Lord Kitchener, described Allingham's sign-up in 1915 and his career in Britain's embryonic air force, flying aircraft he described as little better than “motorized kites.”
The book follows Allingham through the Battle of Jutland and the Western Front, where he was wounded when his aircraft depot was shelled. It closes with his educational work in schools, museums and memorial services.
Allingham spoke lucidly and appeared in good spirits, but his voice broke as he described the casualties of the conflict.
“I am here today not for me, but for all those who gave their lives on our behalf,” he said. “Thank goodness for those people. I could never thank them enough. If it wasn't for them, our privileges would have been destroyed. We probably would not even be here now.”
In lighter moments, reporters needled him on his secret to a long and healthy life.
“Everybody asks that question,” he said. “I don't know! I got fed up with the question — so I said: cigarettes and whisky!”
Allingham co-authored the autobiography with the help of close friend Dennis Goodwin, the founder of Britain's First World War Veterans' Association.