Private 11290 Ernest Allen

Killed in Action on Saturday, 28th April 1917, age 32.
Commemorated on Bay 6 of Arras Memorial, Pas De Calais, France.

2nd Bn., South Staffordshire Regiment. 6th Brigade of 2nd Division.

Son of Mr and Mrs William Allen, of Meeting St., Wednesbury; husband of Nellie Allen, of 6, Hobbin St., Wednesbury, Staffs.
Born: Ocker Hill, Enlisted: Wednesbury, Resident: Unknown.

First landed France & Flanders, 11th January 1915.
Medal entitlement: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives did not survive.

Commemorated on the Wednesbury Roll of Honour.
Commemorated here because identified as Tipton on 'Soldiers Died in the Great War'.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/738458/

Genealogical Data

1901 Census
47 Meeting Street, Wednesbury, Staffs.
William Allen (52, Boiler Stoker at Steel Works, born Hill Top, West Bromwich), his wife Ann (52, born Oxfordshire), and their son Ernest (17, Labourer at Gas Tube Works, born Ocker Hill).

1911 Census
Unable to trace. It is possible that Enest was serving in the Army, as his first landing in France on 11th January 1915 suggests that he was probably a member of the Reserves when war broke out.

Marriage of Ernest Allen and Nellie Morgan registered September quarter 1912 at West Bromwich. Two children were born, Joseph Ernest on 12th December 1913, and Thomas William on 12th November 1917. The latter was born 6 months after his father's death.

Personal Data

Ernest was born in Ocker Hill, but the family moved to Wednesbury between 1891 and 1901.

Ernest had previously been wounded (Gun Shot Wound - arm) as he is recorded being admitted to No.11 Casualty Clearing Station at Gezaincourt on 27th September 1916. On the next day he was transfered by Ambulance Train to either a hospital on the coast, or back to the UK.

After Ernest's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £3/13/10d (3 pounds, 13 shillings and 10 pence); this was paid to his widow, Nellie, in October 1917. His War Gratuity was £12/10/0d (12 pounds and 10 shillings), this was also paid to Nellie in November 1919. The value of the War Gratuity suggests that Ernest had enlisted in approximately August 1914.

Nellie was also awarded a grant of £5/0/0d (5 pounds exactly) on 8th August 1917, and a Widow's Pension of £1/2/11d (1 pound, 2 shillings and 1 penny) per week from 31st December 1917. Her address was given as 20 St. James Street, Wednesbury, but later changed to King's Cross, King Street, Wednesbury, this was possibly on her re-marriage in March quarter 1925 to William A.S. Nicholls.

Action resulting in his death

Zero time fixed for 4.25 a.m. and Z day 28th. The 5th & 6th Brigades reached their 1st & 2nd objectives but were obliged to retire to the original positions owing to the Division on right (63rd) failing to reach its objectives. The British front was subjected to heavy and ceaseless fire all through the day. Our casualties were – Capt. W.A. SIMMONDS, 2/Lts. H. JOHNSON AND J.S. SMITH killed, Lt. T.H. SEARLES wounded, 2/Lts. C.W. BLOOMFIELD & R.S. O’CONNOR missing, and 186 other ranks killed, wounded and missing.

The following detail is from the excellent book "When the Whistle Blows" by Riddoch and Kemp on Sportsman's Battalion - the 17th Middlesex.
The Battle of Arras (1st Battle of the Scarpe) commenced on 9th April 1917, acting as a northern distraction to the Nivelle Offensive on the Aisne which was intended as a major French breakthrough. The British attack brought numerous successes including the capture of Vimy Ridge and the village of Monchy. By 15th April the advance had slowed, and Haig ordered a temporary halt so preparations could be made for the next series of attacks.
The objective for 1st Army (which included the 2nd South Staffs) for the 2nd Battle of the Scarpe (23rd -24th April) was simply the capture of Gavrelle. This was achieved and German counter-attacks were re-buffed, the line held and gains of 1 to 2 miles were made. Haig made plans for a major attack in May to encourage the French to continue their Aisne offensive. As a preliminary to this, an attack on 28th April was intended to get an improved starting line for May - the 2nd Division objective (which included the 2nd South Staffs) was the village of Oppy.
The attack by 6th Brigade of 2nd Division was to be carried out by 17th Middlesex and 13th Essex with 2nd South Staffs in close support, with 'C' & 'D' Companies of 2nd South Staffs acting as support for 17th Middlesex for carrying parties and mopping-up duties.
17th Middlesex were to take 3 successive objectives, following a creeping barrage. At each objective, the leading troops were to consolidate whilst the next wave of troops passed on to the next. The 1st objective was achieved without undue casualties, but the advance to the 2nd objective was held up by German resistance and units either side not advancing as quickly. The creeping barrage moved away faster than the 17th Middlesex could manage and local German counter-attacks ensued.
The Germans managed to drive between the 17th Middlesex and the 2nd Highland Light Infantry to their left, and to attack the 17th Middlesex (especially 'A' Company) from the flank and rear. The "moppers-up" - the 2nd South Staffs - had already been sent forward to strengthen the flanks, but in effect the 17th Middlesex were surrounded. The day had been disastrous for the 17th Middlesex and the companies of the 2nd South Staffs allocated to them. This attack was to be one element of what was to become known as the Battle of Arleux.

62 Other Ranks from the 2nd South Staffs were killed on 28th April, 5 of them from Tipton: Ernest Allen, Robert Jones, Frederick Mantle, William Perks and William Williams. All 5 Tipton men are commemorated on the Arras Memorial.

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