Private 16509 William Henry Allen

Allen William Henry 96 412x600

Died of Wounds on Friday, 26th October 1917, age 36.
Buried in Grave II. K. 42. at Perth Cemetery (China Wall), Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.

1st Bn., South Staffordshire Regiment. 91st Brigade of 7th Division.

Son of Charles and Elizabeth Allen, of 57, Waterloo St., Tipton; husband of Mary Ann Allen, of 57, Waterloo St., Tipton, Staffs.
Born: Tipton, Enlisted: Tipton, Resident: Tipton.

First landed France & Flanders, post 31st December 1915.
Medal entitlement: British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives did not survive.

Commemorated on the Tipton Library Memorial.
Commemorated here because he appears on a Tipton memorial.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/102913/

Genealogical Data

1901 Census
Cannot trace.

1911 Census
8 Waterloo Street, Tipton, Staffs.
William Henry Allen (29, Moulder - Cast Iron Pots, born Birmingham), his wife Polly (24, born Tipton), and their daughter: Gladys May (4 months, born Tipton).

Personal Data

After William's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £4/19/8d (4 pounds, 19 shillings and 8 pence); this was paid to his widow, Mary A., in March 1918. His War Gratuity was £13/10/0d (13 pounds and 10 shillings), this was also paid to Annie in December 1919. The value of the War Gratuity suggests that William had enlisted in October 1914.

Action resulting in his death

On 26th October 1917 the 2nd Battle of Passchendaele began, this was the final phase of the 3rd Battle of Ypres. The main thrust of the attack was from the Canadians towards the village (or ruins) of Passchendaele. This was ultimately taken, at great cost, on 6th November.

From Sir Douglas Haig's Passchendaele Despatch
"In a subsidiary attack undertaken by us at the same hour, English troops (7th and 5th Divisions) entered Gheluvelt and recaptured Polderhoek Chateau, with a number of prisoners. Our men's rifles, however, had become choked with mud in their advance, and when later in the morning strong German counter-attacks developed, they were obliged to withdraw."

This gives a quite positive spin to events. 'C' and 'D' Companies of the 1st South Staffs were badly hit by enemy machine gun fire and did not reach the German lines, the survivors being forced to take what cover they could in shell holes. 'B' Company suffered heavy losses, but reached their objective, 'the Mound', and consolidated. No reinforcements arrived and they were forced to retire after dusk.

The 1st South Staffs had 6 Officers and 114 Other Ranks killed on the 26th October, amongst them 2 Tipton men - William Allen and George Boden. William is buried in Perth Cemetery (China Wall), just over a mile south east of Ypres. George, like most of the South Staffs casualties of that day, has no known grave and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial.

If you require further detail of the 26th October, carry on reading.

26th October 1917:
Operation orders:
X Corps are to co-operate with the main attack further north, by attacking Gheluvelt and Polderhoek Wood. The role of the 7th Division: to capture Gheluvelt, some ground along Zandvoorde spur, and so secure Tower Hamlets ridge.

Battalion orders:
'B' Coy on right front, 'D' in centre, 'C' on left. 2 platoons of 'A' Coy to support 'C', the remainder of 'A' to support 'B' and 'D'. 1 Coy of 22nd Manchesters attached, whose objective will be to take over battalion front line.
Barrage 150 yards in front for 4 minutes, then creep 200 yards in 12 minutes, then 200 in 8, then 100 per 12 minutes to Red Protective barrage.
Consolidation will be carried out, to obtain a good observation and defence line, to obtain a line of postst from The Mound (J.26.b.0.8) to Berry Cotts to Spur (J.27.a.7.5), plus an intermediate line of posts from Hamp Farm (J.27.a.17.55 to 35.76).
21st Manchesters will be on our left. 19th Division on our right will not attack.
4 Vickers guns will advance with battalion, 2 to rear of Berry Cotts, 2 in the old front line.
4 Stokes mortars under Lt W.C.Conley MC.
Advanced Battalion HQ under 2/Lt G.A.C.Sheffield, will be in old front line.
Signals will, on reaching Red and Blue Lines, show Red and Green Very. Red and White flares, if called by Contact Aeroplane.
SOS will be rifle grenade parachute flares showing red over green over yellow.

Operations narrative:
Battalion formed up without incident, in spite of the moon. At zero, there was heavy enemy machine gun fire and a medium barrage on the whole ridge, especially severe on Battalion HQ. "C" Company on left progressed, with heavy casualties, until 50 yards from Berry Cotts. There they encountered very strong opposition using stick bombs. The Company were swept by machine guns from Berry Cotts and Lewis House. Mud had rendered rifles and Lewis guns useless.
"C" Company strength was down to 1 officer and about 20 other ranks, who lay out in shell holes. "D" Company met very strong opposition from Hamp Farm and from crossfire; they only got 50 yards from our front line.
"B" Company, protected a little by the lie of the ground, made more progress. They attacked the Mound, with heavy fighting. Both officers and all NCOs were killed or wounded. The remainder of the Company, now under a Corporal, carried their objective. The enemy retired, and positions were consolidated. Runners were sent back for reinforcements, but all became casualties. No message got to Battalion HQ. The remnants of "B" Company fell back after dusk, destroying one machine gun before doing so.
Casualties: Killed in action: 6 Officers & 38 other ranks. Wounded: 1 Officer & 136 other ranks. Missing: 1 Officer & 91 other ranks.

27th October 1917:
Relieved quietly by 20th Manchesters (at 2300 on 26th), marched back to camp at Vierstraat.

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