Henry Allingham, 1896-2009

While people will (rightly) remember Walter Cronkite, I want to recall Henry Allingham, who died today. At age 113, he was the world’s oldest man and one of the last surviving veterans of World War One. He was also the last surviving founding member of the Royal Air Force, and in his last years became the doyen of British armed forces. For me, he was the face of a generation that gave so much, lost so much, and — as their heirs — have much to reflect on. We in the liberal churches have an especial duty to reflect on World War One as much as any, as the boundless optimism of our ancestors — “onward and upward forever” — was also a casualty at Ypres.

I’ve been following the story of the surviving veterans for years, and wrote briefly about it in 2005. Then, there were about 85 survivors. Now there are four. This is probably their last Christmas.

And in case you still don’t think there’s a reason you should care about World War One, consider its cause, or at least a cause: Middle East oil, if you believe Robert Newman’s History of Oil. (video) (And he make more sense than others I’ve heard.)

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