Private Bernard Alfred Allen

Pakenham State School Roll of Honour

Born: 6 October 1898 - Pakenham, Victoria                          

Enlisted: 6 November 1916 aged 18

Unit: 24th Battalion, 19th Reinforcement (SERN: 6766)        

Served: Western Front

Died: 29 May 1976 - Elsternwick, Victoria

Right: Bernard Allen's father was a butcher in Pakenham. This photograph, which is captioned "Snowballing in Pakenham" is from c. 1906 and shows a butcher's shop (right) with the old Commercial Bank further down the street. BPHS Collection P2004.

Bernard was a younger brother of Ernie Allen and also attended Pakenham State School. He later moved to Yinnar near Churchill, where his widowed mother Jessie lived. Like Ernie, Bernard was a butcher by trade. When he enlisted in November 1916 though, 18 year old Bernard was working as a market gardener at Heatherton. Bernard was assigned to the 24th Battalion 19th Reinforcement. Although Jessie had given her consent to Bernard enlisting, she only reluctantly permitted him to sail overseas in February 1917: “My son Pte B Allen has requested me his mother to give my consent to his being allowed to sail with the Expeditionary Forces when needed. I have put it off as long as I can, but at last have given in. So if you think he is old enough to go you have my sanction” (1). One wonders what Jessie felt a few weeks later, when she got the news that her other son Ernie had been killed in action? 

Bernard left Melbourne in May 1917. He spent from July to December with a training unit in England, then was sent to France and taken on strength with the 24th Battalion on 23 December 1917, spending Christmas at the Front. On 21 May 1918, Bernard was gassed with mustard gas and sent to convalesce elsewhere in France. He recovered well and rejoined his unit in June 1918. The 24th Battalion subsequently saw action at places such as Le Hamel, Amiens and Mont St Quentin. After the War ended, Bernard was granted leave in England (2). Christmas there must have been very different to the one spent on the Western Front the previous year. Bernard returned to his unit in France in early January 1919, but in February he fractured bones in his arm, leg and feet and was hospitalised in England. Although these fractures healed, those in his feet left him with pain for many years and he required special surgical boots (3). Bernard left England for Australia in April 1919 and was discharged in Melbourne on 12 July 1919. 

 

After the War, Bernard settled around Prahran / South Yarra and obtained work as a carpenter. In April 1927, Bernard married Annie Muir at North Carlton. The couple eventually had three children. Bernard later served in WWII (V354883) and also with the Civil Construction Corps. After WWII, Bernard resumed carpentry, finally retiring in 1964 (4). Bernard died of lung cancer at Elsternwick in May 1976, aged 77 years. Bernard’s body was cremated at Springvale Crematorium. Subsequently, the Repatriation Commission examined whether Bernard’s death was attributable to his being gassed back in 1918, as some studies had found that exposure to mustard gas could lead to cancer. No link was found in Bernard’s case though (5).  

 

Sources: 

(1) & (2) NAA B2455 ALLEN BA 

(3) (4) & (5) NAA B73 M66516

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