The AIF Project

Walter Otto Herbert ALLEN

Regimental number1612
Place of birthStrathfieldsaye, near Bendigo, Victoria
School'Gravel Hill';, Bendigo, Victoria
Other training35th Course of Physical and Bayonet Training, Aldershot, England 1917.
ReligionPresbyterian
OccupationFarmer
AddressFriedaville, Rannock, Coolamon, New South Wales
Marital statusSingle
Age at embarkation26
Height5' 7"
Weight164 lbs
Next of kinFather, George Edward Allen, Friedaville, Rannock, Coolamon, New South Wales
Previous military serviceNil
Enlistment date20 January 1916
Place of enlistmentGoulburn, New South Wales
Rank on enlistmentPrivate
Unit name55th Battalion, 2nd Reinforcement
AWM Embarkation Roll number23/72/3
Embarkation detailsUnit embarked from Sydney, New South Wales, on board HMAT A40 Ceramic on 14 April 1916
Rank from Nominal RollCorporal
Unit from Nominal Roll55th Battalion
Other details from Roll of Honour CircularAfter going through a course of instruction at Aldershot training school, Cpl Allen obtained his Certificate for Bayonet fighting.
FateKilled in Action 4 July 1918
Place of death or woundingHamel, France
Age at death28
Place of burialNo known grave
Commemoration detailsAustralian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, France

Villers-Bretonneux is a village about 15 km east of Amiens. The Memorial stands on the high ground ('Hill 104') behind the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, Fouilloy, which is about 2 km north of Villers-Bretonneux on the east side of the road to Fouilloy.

The Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux is approached through the Military Cemetery, at the end of which is an open grass lawn which leads into a three-sided court. The two pavilions on the left and right are linked by the north and south walls to the back (east) wall, from which rises the focal point of the Memorial, a 105 foot tall tower, of fine ashlar. A staircase leads to an observation platform, 64 feet above the ground, from which further staircases lead to an observation room. This room contains a circular stone tablet with bronze pointers indicating the Somme villages whose names have become synonymous with battles of the Great War; other battle fields in France and Belgium in which Australians fought; and far beyond, Gallipoli and Canberra.

On the three walls, which are faced with Portland stone, are the names of 10,885 Australians who were killed in France and who have no known grave. The 'blocking course' above them bears the names of the Australian Battle Honours.

After the war an appeal in Australia raised £22,700, of which £12,500 came from Victorian school children, with the request that the majority of the funds be used to build a new school in Villers-Bretonneux. The boys' school opened in May 1927, and contains an inscription stating that the school was the gift of Victorian schoolchildren, twelve hundred of whose fathers are buried in the Villers-Bretonneux cemetery, with the names of many more recorded on the Memorial. Villers-Bretonneux is now twinned with Robinvale, Victoria, which has in its main square a memorial to the links between the two towns.

Panel number, Roll of Honour,
  Australian War Memorial
160
Miscellaneous information from
  cemetery records
Parents: George Edwin and Mathilde Agnes ALLEN.
Other details

War service: Egypt, Western Front

Embarked Sydney, 14 April 1916; disembarked Port Said, Egypt, 16 May 1916.

Embarked Alexandria, 29 July 1916; disembarked Southampton, England, 9 August 1916.

Promoted Acting Corporal without pay, 14th Training Bn, Hurdcott, 10 August 1916.

Admitted to hospital, 8 January 1917 (mumps); transferred to Fovant Military Hospital, Wilts, 10 January 1917; discharged, 16 January 1917; marched into 14th Training Bn, Hurdcott, 27 January 1917.

Promoted Corporal, 24 January 1917.

Admitted to Fovant Military Hospital, Hurdcott, 11 April 1917 (influenza).

Admitted to Fovant Military Hospital, Hurdcott, 28 April 1917 (spr. foot).

Attended Physical and Bayonet Training Course, Aldershot, 27 July 1917.

Promoted Acting Sergeant, 14th Training Bn, Hurdcott, 16 October 1917; reverts to rank of Corporal, 20 October 1917.

Marched into Overseas Training Bde, Longbridge Deverill, 5 November 1917.

Proceeded overseas to France, 31 December 1918; marched into Australian Intermediate Base Depot, Le Havre, 1 January 1918.

Proceeded to unit, 2 February 1918; taken on strength of 55th Bn, in the field, 6 January 1918.

Wounded in action, 20 March 1918; admitted to No 15 Australian Field Ambulance, 20 March 1918 (multiple shrapnel wounds to legs); transferred to No 11 Casualty Clearing Station, 20 March 1918; discharged to duty, 13 April 1918; marched into Australian Intermediate Base Depot, Le Harve, 16 April 1918.

Proceeded to unit, 30 May 1918; rejoined 55th Bn, 2 June 1918.

Killed in action, 4 July 1918.

Statement by Lt Col H.S. Miller, Commanding Officer, 55th Bn, undated: 'Corporal Allen was wounded during a raid on the enemy position S.W. of Morlancourt, Somme on the 4th July 1918. Whilst being helped to the rear, he was killed by a shell. His body could not be found later, nor could any information as to his burial be discovered.'

Medals: British War Medal, Victory Medal

Statement, Red Cross File No 0070203C, 3474 Pte J.E. WALKER, 55th Bn (patient, 3rd Australian Auxiliary Hospital, Dartford, England), 3 September 1918: 'I was assisting to carry Allen, B. Coy. from No Mans [sic] Land to our own lines just in front of Hamel: he had been badly hit all down the right side, he was conscious, but in a bad state when a shell burst just in front of us, wounding me and Allen was hit again, but I saw nothing of him after that.'

Second statement, 5399 Lance Corporal R.F. LITTLE, 55th Bn, 12 September 1918: 'On July 4 at 3.10 a.m. on the tape in the trench ready to hop over at Sailly le Sec, Allen was wounded by a flying pig, i.e. H.T.E. I was only a few yards away and saw it happen. S/B Sgt. Burke DCM helped to carry him out when Allen was struck by a shell and killed. The S/Bs left the body and returned, but could find no trace of the body when they returned to the spot. The Sgt. can give full details. Allen was a Cpl., he came from Goulbern [sic] district. He was of medium height, nuggety, fair and keen on sport.'

Third statement, 2659 Pte F.G. GOODCHILD, 55th Bn, 17 September 1918: 'I know the S/B who brought these and other men back after the action. Arrangements had been made to occupy a position in the Mericourt Sector. I saw the crosses with the names &c. of Allen and [2674 W.B.] Hart and the others (about 12 altogether) ready for erection. They were all buried in the same Cemetery, between Heilly and Aubigny.'

Fourth statement, 2001 Lance Corporal A.J. GILLETT, D Company, 55th Bn (patient, 1st Birmingham War Hospital, Rednal, England), 4 October 1918: 'On July 4th 1918 left of Hamel ... Corporal Allen went out with a raiding party and was badly wounded. Sergeant Burke carried him for some distance, but Allen was dying and asked to be put down. The Sergeant had to leave him as he was a big man. This happened in No Man's land [sic].' Eyewitness: no. Interviewer's comment: 'reliable'

Fifth statement (no name attached, but is 1517 Sergeant E.A. BOURKE MSM, 55th Bn): 'I am very sorry to say he was killed on that date. He forst got wounded by a shell in No Man's Land coming back from a raid on the enemy's lines. When he first got hit he ran up to me and said "I am done old man," and then fainted off. He was badly wounded in [the] face and left side. I carried him from where he was wounded to a little behind our outpost line and laid him in a hole out of harm's way of the enemies' [sic] shells which were falling like hailstones. After we were in the hole for a while, Cpl Allen came to, and said "I am dying fast, leave me in the hole and get in and save yourself" as cool as if he was only going to have a short sleep. He was brave to the last and the sort of soldier that makes Australian history. After I had rested for a while I started off with him again and got to within 50 yards of our support line when he was again wounded and died in [a] few minutes. He was buried where I left him in the field in front of a village called Morlancourt and all I can say is that Cpl Allen was a true and brave comrade. He bore his wounds and took his fate without a murmur.'

Medals: British War Medal, Victory Medal
SourcesNAA: B2455, ALLEN Walter Otto Herbert
Red Cross File No 0070203C

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