Private William Ernest Francis Allen +
Pakenham State School Roll of Honour
Born: 1888 - Pakenham, Victoria
Enlisted: 7 June 1916 aged 28
Unit: 58th Battalion, 6th Reinforcement (SERN: 2611)
Served: Western Front
Killed in action: 26 March 1917 - Morchies, near Bapaume France
Right: This early photograph shows students at Pakenham State School prior to 1896. Ernie Allen is the young child (highlighted) standing in front of the teacher, Mr Nugent. Courtesy of John Waterhouse.
Known as “Ernie” and honoured on the Pakenham State School Honour Roll as “E Allen” (1), William Ernest Allen was born in Pakenham in 1888, the eldest son of Francis and Jessie Allen. His father was a butcher. Pakenham “old timer” Alex Hein remembered Ernie attending Pakenham State School with his brother Bernard and sisters Maud and Frances (2). Later, Ernie became a butcher like his father (3). Ernie grew into a well built man and was nicknamed “Snowy” on account of his light hair (4). He was 28 years old, married with two sons and living at Malvern East when he enlisted on 7 June 1916.
After enlisting, Ernie was assigned as a private to the 6th Reinforcement, 58th Battalion at Broadmeadows Army Camp. He left Melbourne in October 1916 and arrived in Plymouth England the following month. On New Year’s Eve 1916, Ernie was marched into the 5th Australian Divisional Base Depot at Etaples, France. He was taken on strength with A Company, 58th Battalion in early February 1917. He soon fell sick with pleurisy (pneumonia) and was sent to hospital. Ernie rejoined his unit on 23 March 1917. Tragically, he was killed in action three days later during the Germans’ tactical retreat on the Somme. An eyewitness account stated: “I saw Allen killed by a ‘whizz-bang’ [shell]... between Vaux and the Sunken Rd. He died instantly”. Apparently, shrapnel from the shell went through his head. Another soldier was killed with him (5). Ernie was buried just east of Morchies, five miles east north east of Bapaume. Later, he was reburied in the Queant Road British Cemetery at Buissy near Cambrai (6). Ernie’s widow and sons were granted small pensions (7). Ernie’s family placed in-memoriam notices in the Argus newspaper on the second anniversary of his death. His mother’s spoke of “duty nobly done”, while his widow’s described Ernie as “my hero” (8).
(1) & (2) Pakenham Gazette 19/6/1959 p. 8
(3) AWM Honour Roll Circular No 2611 Private ALLEN, William Ernest Francis
(4) & (5) AWM Red Cross Wounded and Missing File - 2611 Private William Ernest Francis Allen
(6) & (7) NAA B2455 ALLEN W E F
(8) Argus, 26/3/1919, p. 1