British WWI veteran becomes world's oldest man

Fri Jun 19, 2009 7:16am EDT
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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - British World War One veteran Henry Allingham is the world's oldest man at 113 following the death of the previous holder of the title, Japan's Tomoji Tanabe, Guinness World Records said on Friday.

"Henry Allingham is now officially the oldest man in the world," said a spokeswoman for the organization widely recognized as the authority on record-breakers.

Tanabe, who ate mostly vegetables and believed the key to his longevity was not drinking alcohol, died on Friday aged 113 and had held the record for the oldest living male since January, 2007.

Allingham was born in London on June 6, 1896, and took the British title on January 19, 2007 aged 110 years 227 days, Guinness World Records said in a statement.

"We're pleased to see an English man take the world record -- the last time someone from England held the title was Frederick Butterfield, who died on March 9, 1974, aged 110," said Craig Glenday, Editor-in-Chief of Guinness World Records.

Allingham is one of only two surviving World War One veterans in the United Kingdom and the last surviving founder member of the Royal Air Force, according to British media.

His friend and chaperone, Dennis Goodwin, said: "It's staggering. He is philosophical. He will take it in his stride, like he does everything else."

Allingham's life has spanned three centuries and six monarchs, starting with Queen Victoria. He has five grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren, 14 great-great grandchildren and one great-great-great grandchild.

Guinness World Records said the oldest living person is American Gertrude Baines, 115, who was born on April 6, 1894.

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Steve Addison)

<p>Britain's oldest man, Henry Allingham, looks at a card displaying a picture of a WW1 pilot during his 113th birthday party at HMS President, in London June 6, 2009. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor</p>