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Hooray for Henry the engineer!

EUROPE'S oldest man and former Eastbourne resident Henry Allingham has been presented with an honorary doctorate of engineering at Warsash Maritime Academy.

One hundred and twelve-year-old Henry was presented with the doctorate by the University's Chancellor, Lord Alan West former First Sea Lord, for his contribution to Britain and its allies during two world wars and his continuing charity work, especially connected with veteran servicemen and women.

For a man who said he felt woefully under-qualified during his career as he had no formal engineering qualifications, finally being awarded a doctorate will be a special thrill.

Henry, who lived in his Eastbourne home until he was 110, is Britain's oldest living man, the oldest ever surviving member of any of the British Armed Forces and the oldest surviving veteran of the First World War.

He is the last survivor of the Battle of Jutland, the last surviving member of the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) and the last surviving founding member of the Royal Air Force (RAF).

In 1915, as an Air Mechanic, Henry supported anti-submarine patrols, including the manual hoisting of sea planes in and out of the water.

In the run-up to the Battle of Jutland, he joined the naval trawler, HMT Kingfisher, where he helped to launch a Sopwith Schneider seaplane used to look out for the German High Seas Fleet.

In 1917, Henry was posted to the Western Front to join No. 12 Squadron (RNAS), which acted as a training squadron and was involved in the Ypres offensive.

Henry also instrumented the very first reconnaissance aircraft camera. He was later posted to the Aircraft Depot at Dunkirk, where he remained for the rest of the war on aircraft repair and recovery duties.

He recalls being bombed from the air and shelled from the land and sea. Henry was transferred to the Royal Air Force when the RNAS and the RFC were merged on April 1, 1918.

During the Second World War, Henry was involved in developing an effective system that neutralised German magnetic mines.

In his civilian life Henry pursued his profession as an engineer, including working for Ford motor company, until 1960.

Last year, his work in engineering, starting with his days as a mechanic in the RAF was recognised by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers when he was presented with the President's Special Award for Outstanding Contribution and Achievements on behalf of the Engineering Profession.

Since 2001, he has become the public face of the World War I Veterans' Association and makes frequent appearances to raise awareness among younger generations of the two world wars.

He launched the 2003 Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal in that year with model Nell McAndrew aboard the cruiser HMS Belfast.

Henry is the recipient of many honours including the Legion d'Honneur, British War Medal, Victory Medal, the Freedom of the Town of Saint-Omer, Gold Medal of Saint-Omer, and the Freedom of Eastbourne.

 
 
 

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