Missing in action

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"If they do not stop throwing bits of lead about and small iron foundries at one another I really think somebody will surely get hurt."

   Private Stephen Allen, 13th Battalion, 9 July 1916

Privates Robert and Stephen Allen enlisted in the AIF in July 1915 and served with the 13th Battalion in France. They were killed by same shell on 14 August 1916. Initially reported as missing, in 1917 they were listed as killed in action.

Mrs Hester Allen and her four children (left to right): Robert, Florrie, Minnie, and Stephen. P05399.001

The pink telegram

If someone went missing or was killed, a telegram was sent to the local clergyman, who broke the news to the family. Unfortunately, instead of being a source of consolation, the sight of a clergyman often led people to fear the worst.

Pink telegram reporting Private Allen killed in action

“We send you the following report”

After the Allen brothers went missing, their family was desperate for news. The army could not provide any further details, so the family asked the Red Cross Wounded and Missing Bureau for help. Between October 1916 and September 1917, witnesses were interviewed and the accounts forwarded to the family.

A year after the death of her sons, Mrs Hester Allen received two parcels with their personal effects. However, the army made a mistake, and Stephen’s effects were in Robert’s parcel and the effects of another man were in Stephen’s. Robert’s personal effects were never returned to his family. REL/05135.001