Henry Allingham was born on the 6th June 1896 and died on the 13th June 2010, He lived for 113 years and 13 days and was the oldest surviving British World War I veteran, a founding member of the Royal Air Force, the last known survivor of the Battle of Jutland and, at the time of his death, the oldest man in the world
In 2003 Henry was awarded The Legion d'Honneur, France's highest decoration established by Napoleon Bonaparte in May 1802 for gallantry in action or distinguished service in military or civilian life, and in August 2005 Henry led the nation in the Lord's Prayer at the Cenotaph in London to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the outbreak of World War 1.
Henry joined the Royal Naval Air Service in 1915 as an aircraft mechanic and acted as an observer and gunner searching for U-boats, Zeppelins and mines over the North Sea. In May 1916 he was ordered aboard HMT Kingfisher as it set out to join the British Battle Fleet, to help launch a Sopwith Schneider seaplane to look for the German Battle Fleet. It was night when the Kingfisher met up with the fleet and Henry witnessed the ensuing 'Battle of Jutland'; he recalls "seeing shells ricocheting across the sea".
The Battle of Jutland was the greatest naval battle of the First World War and, although the Royal Navy lost more ships, it was considered a British victory as the Royal Navy retained command of the seas and maintained the blockade of Germany, which ultimately brought Germany to its knees. Henry also operated the very first reconnaissance aircraft camera during World War I.
In December 2005, Henry travelled to Rob Munday's studio in Richmond-Upon-Thames, London. During the three hour shoot two types of portraits were created. Rob first created a number of digital parallax image sequences using his unique VIP camera system, the same camera system that he designed and built to record Her Majesty the Queen's portrait. He then moved to Rob's ruby pulsed laser portrait studio where three 40 * 30 cm glass plate master holograms were exposed.
Soon after the portrait was recorded Rob learned that a special exhibition was to open on 31st May 2006 to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland and to remember the 8,648 British and German sailors who lost there lives in the battle. An exhibition entitled 'Ghosts of Jutland' was to form part of London's floating navel museum on board the HMS Belfast.
As Henry was the last known survivor of the Battle of Jutland, Rob felt that it would be extremely fitting to donate a holographic portrait of Henry to the museum so that it could be displayed alongside Henry's biography. Rob also proposed that HRH The Duchess of Gloucester GCVO, the patron of the World War I Veterans Association, unveiled the holographic portrait in the presence of Henry to mark the opening of the exhibition and raise awareness of the battle. Both proposals were gratefully accepted.
A gold coloured 40*30 cm pulsed laser reflection hologram and a life-sized full colour lenticular photograph were provided for the opening on the 31st May 2006.
The hologram has now been archived by the Imperial War Museum and a further copy tours schools and other venues in the UK to raise awareness of the First World War and the role that many thousands of servicemen like Henry played in it.
When children look at Henry's holographic portrait over the decades and perhaps even centuries to come they will see the man himself frozen in an instant of time, a real man that once stood aboard HMT Kingfisher and saw the shells ricocheting across the sea. Ironically, thanks to this holographic facsimile of reality, the passage of time will be less able to mute reality itself in the minds of future generations.
After Henry's death the portrait was chosen as Henry’s official portrait. It was used for the booklet printed for the funeral service and shown at the funeral itself. Rob has subsequently donated the portrait to St Dustan's, where Henry spent his last years, and it is now on permanent display.