Friday 27 June 2014 by David Heness. 7 comments
First World War Centenary, Anzac Connections, Collection, Personal Stories

The Allen brothers with their family.

Privates Stephen Charles Allen and Robert Beattie Allen were literally brothers-in-arms. The brothers from Manly in New South Wales had enlisted within a week of each other in July 1915, both with the 13th Infantry Battalion. After embarking from Australia in September of that year the brothers were first sent to Egypt for several months. Unaware of the conditions that awaited them at the Western Front they, like many others, were subsequently glad to leave Egypt. Stephen remarked in one letter home that in Egypt they were “dying a sure but slow death” due to the sand and the heat.

They now found themselves on the Western Front in France, half a world away from home. With subtle humour Stephen remarked in one letter that they now had “plenty of company especially of a night time, the rats come and kiss us good night and run about over us just as though we were a public roadway…” Despite the incessant rain and mud, bitter cold and hellish artillery fire, he also managed to cultivate a poppy plant in one of the trenches and sent one of its flowers home to his family in Australia. The constant shell fire and horrendous conditions at the front did not prevent the brothers from remembering their sister Minnie’s birthday and they both sent ornate birthday cards to her from the front.

On August 14th 1916, in the midst of the fighting around Mouquet Farm in France, the brothers failed to report back in after fatigue duty. Originally listed as missing in action it would take several months and several witness testimonies to ascertain their fate. A letter from Private Will Hale to one of the Allen sisters describes what happened that fateful day. He wrote that:

“When the shell had exploded I knew by the screams that someone had caught it. I could not get through for some time, as I was half silly through the shock. However when I could get through, my brother was seriously wounded and your [two] brothers were laying there, they had been killed…”

Stephen Charles Allen and Robert Beattie Allen, the brothers who had embarked and served together, were killed together by the same artillery shell while walking beside each other. Stephen was 25 years old and Robert was 27 years old. Their letters home, including the birthday cards to their sister and the preserved poppy, been digitised as part of the Anzac Connections digitisation project and are available to view online here.

The preserved poppy that Stephen Charles Allen sent to his family at home.

The preserved poppy that Stephen Charles Allen sent to his family at home.

 

Comments

Stephen Brooks

Very sad story David, at least they left some letters and we have a photograph to remember them by. 2631 Private Edward Dillon and 2632 Private Jeremiah Dillon of the 51st Battalion were killed in action together the very next day, 15th August 1916. According to witnesses in the Red Cross files, one was wounded in No Mans Land and when the other went help him, both were killed by a shell.

Lyndon SCHMIDT

God Bless the ANZACS, I have a 17 year old son (Only Child) who has enlisted and accepted into the Australian Military as a Light Calvary Scout. Pending his success, he wants to join as a Commando. As a father, I will no doubt have sleeplessness nights. GOD bless the ALLEN brothers.

Colleen Donovan

Rest in Eternal Peace, young men.... your memory lives on. God Bless you.

Dee boneham

A sad but special remnant... RIP lads xx

Alan Macrae

Very emotional, 3 of my grand uncles left Scotland and served in the Australian army in WW1. 2 served at Gallipoli and the oldest Alex was killed at the landing. His younger brother William was wounded in the August and evacuated. He spent some months in hospital and returned to the war in the middle East. He died in 1982. Their older brother Thomas was killed in Belgium in 1917, serving with the Australian artillery, he is buried in Nieppe, France. Their oldest brother Kemp was killed in France in 1918, serving with Royal Scots. Both Alex and Thomas are remembered on the Canberra memorial. Below is a link to a tribute from the small Auistralian town Alex settled in. http://carnamah.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/one-of-carnamahs-fallen-private-848.html

Alan Macrae

Further to my comments about my grand uncles who served in WW1 This is a tribute to the oldest brother Thomas. The tribute was written by a local who has a website dedicated to all those who died in the Great war. http://www.inmemories.com/Cemeteries/pontdachelles.htm

James Cassells

Lest We Forget - Rest In Peace