Those of you who read Crikey in the early days will remember this piece
from the world’s oldest columnist, Crikey’s then 100-year-old grandpa
Philip Mayne, reflecting back on what it was like to live through all
of the 20th century. Well, today grandpa turns 106 and he’s looking
forward to receiving his third letter from the Queen.

“You get a
letter from the Queen when you turn 100, then another when you turn 105
and I understand I’ll get one every year from now on,” grandpa
explained during a typically coherent and upbeat 15 minute telephone
call to the northern England town of Richmond last night.

And
the man who has three children, eight grandchildren and 20 great
grandchildren had some big news last night: “It appears that I am the
only officer left alive who was in the British Army in World War One,”
grandpa said.

A British historian who has spent two years
researching the subject believes there are now only 10 British Great
War survivors in service, but the other nine were all privates.

Grandpa
joined the Royal Engineers officer cadet program when he turned 18 in
November 1917 and while he didn’t see any action in France, he did work
on bridge building and the like. He was made an officer before his 19th
birthday and was then demobbed on Christmas Eve 1918 before taking up a
scholarship at Cambridge University’s famous King’s College in January
1919.

It seems extreme old age brings with it greater attention with every passing year. Check out this interview with grandpa on page seven of the King’s College Spring 2005 newsletter, celebrating the oldest living Kingsman.

Grandpa’s collected works in Crikey were turned into a little book for his 105th birhday and you can read some of them here:

How I saw all of the 20th century
Further thoughts on the 20th century
World’s oldest columnist is back
Crikey’s grandfather on the day President Kennedy was shot

But
despite such gentle lobbying, there isn’t much prospect of another
contribution: “The trouble is that your memory goes to pot,” grandpa
explained. “It wasn’t so bad when I was 100, but when you get to 106 it
gets a bit difficult. I think I’m a bit past that sort of thing.”

Happy birthday grandpa. To have lived from November 22, 1899, to the present is a truly remarkable effort.