YESTERDAY, The Argus launched a campaign to persuade the Government to honour 112-year-old Henry Allingham, the oldest surviving veteran of the First World War. DENNIS GOODWIN, a close friend of Mr Allingham and founder of the World War One Veterans Association, says Mr Allingham’s legacy and the memories of all those who died should be made to last forever.

I started the World War One Veterans Association 22 years ago. My work took me into nursing homes and I came across a lot of men who seemed to have been shunted into nursing and residential homes because of their age.

This was local authority accommodation and while there seemed to be an abundance of care, there was a scarcity of any awareness or recognition of the lives of these men and what they did during the war and the subsequent years as they battled again for themselves and their families.

These were men who fought along the Somme. How could their history be ignored or discarded?

I organised a pilgrimage to Flanders in 1988. My son and I brought seven men down from Lancashire and two from Sussex. For some of them it was the first time they had been back since they had been there in their uniforms.

It was really a rollercoaster of emotions as far as I was concerned and the effect on those veterans was really remarkable. These were quiet, frail men who were disabled and bearing the scars of their lives.

Some had lost direction and purpose. But they shrugged all this off to show the stamina and courage they had shown when they were there in the front line.

It’s true that many, many soldiers lost lives and limbs at Flanders but on this occasion they all found new life and used limbs they had not used for years. When I returned home the phone never stopped ringing with relatives asking me to take their fathers, grandfathers and uncles back there.

After that we tried to put it on some sort of solid footing. We needed a network of helpers who were interested in veterans to keep in touch with them and build on what they had achieved. At that age they needed quite a lot of support.

Having built that network up, most of our volunteers were relatives of veterans who had fought and died during the war and they wanted to do their bit for them. People kept ringing up to ask when we were going again.

I have also organised events in this country as we could get more veterans involved and recruited people like the old days when the Army sent the band out to recruit men. It grew and grew as we got into the 1990s but then the numbers started decreasing.

There were 4,000 First World War veterans in the early 1990s and now we are down to just two. Here we have Henry, who has lived longer than any other man in the British Isles. The award on Monday from the French Government was the Legion d’Honneur which was given to all French veterans in 1996 and has since been extended to combatants who fought over there.

Henry was promoted because he goes over to France and lays wreaths and talks to schoolchildren. He has kept alive the spirit of the First World War.

As I said, and even Henry agrees with me, as long as the public keep in their hearts and minds what these men went through, that is enough. They do not want any insignia.

But at the same time I would be most happy if something could be done on behalf of that generation.

I know that when Henry or his fellow First World War veteran Harry Patch goes, a service of remembrance will be held. But I would also like to see something more specific, something more lasting, that will carry on after they are gone.

I would like to see something put in place like a foundation but someone needs to take up the challenge. I would welcome ideas of how best this could be achieved and to do it in the lifetime of Henry and Harry Patch.

They would be delighted that they would be instrumental in founding this, rather than any individual award.

Join our campaign to honour Henry Allingham.