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Albert George Victor Allen

Corporal  14546 Albert George Victor Allen, 7th Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment


Albert ‘Curley’ Allen was born in Abingdon on 10 October 1887, the son of William J Allen and his wife Mercy (née Randel), and was baptised at St Michael’s, Abingdon on 5 December. William was a brewery worker, possibly at Morland’s Brewery, a notable local brewery that dominated the brewing trade in Abingdon at that time and continued to operate in the town until taken over by Greene King in 2000. In 1895 William died leaving Mercy with five children (William, Patience, Frank, Albert and Grace) to care for. The family history then gets complicated. Mercy had had a child, Henry, before she married William, with whom she had six children (one, Bernard, died aged only one in 1891). Following William’s death she remarried, to Peter Caufield, who himself had four children (Kate, Peter, Edith and Winifred) by his previous marriage to Sarah Reeves. Further complications come with Sarah’s children (Annie, Alice and Edward) from an earlier marriage.


By the time of the 1901 census  the family had moved to Newbury where Patience  aged 18 is found as the head of a family of Allens and Caufields. Patience and her 14 year old step-sister Kate were working as laundresses while Frank (16) and Albert (13) were contributing errand boys’ wages to the family coffers. With four more school age children Peter (12), Edith (10) and Winnie (6) Caufield and Grace Allen their rented terraced house in Railway Road (3 Diamond Cottages) would have been packed. In local street directories from 1901 to 1905 the occupant of 3 Diamond Cottages (now 18 Railway Road) is listed as P Golfield – presumably a misheard ‘Caulfield’ (Peter was from Co Durham, his accent may have been a shock to Berkshire ears). This suggests that Peter and Mercy were around, perhaps simply absent on census night.


As Albert grew up he became a builders’ labourer and moved around with the work. 1911 found him in Hanwell in Middlesex, living with and possibly working for Charles Hambridge, a house painter and builder.


Albert enlisted with the Royal Berkshire Regiment on 7 September 1914, shortly after war was declared. By this time his sister Patience had married Albert Spicer and set up home at 4 Newlands Villas, Salcombe Road, which was also home to those of her younger siblings who had no other permanent address.  Albert gave this as his address and Patience as his next of kin.


He was posted to one of the regiment’s new ‘Service’ battalions, the 7th (Service) Battalion. Four such battalions saw action, three in France and Flanders. The 7th Battalion did not suffer the mud and mayhem of the Western Front. Instead they fought on an almost forgotten front in Salonika, northern Greece. Here they had a different set of problems to face, notably the mountainous terrain and disease. Malaria was a huge problem, and over 60,000 of the 100,000 troops committed to the front were hospitalised at some point during the campaign.


The Salonika campaign started as a mission to support Serbia which was being invaded by Austro-Hungarian and Bulgarian forces. However, the allied force arrived too late to prevent the complete invasion of Serbia; instead they established a front on the Greek border and the situation stabilised for a long time. In September 1918 the allies finally launched an offensive that quickly broke the Bulgarian army, forcing a surrender within two weeks.


Albert arrived in Greece with the battalion in November 1915 and remained there until after the Bulgarian surrender. Fighting continued as the British advanced against the Ottoman Empire, almost reaching Constantinople (Istanbul) before the Ottomans asked for an armistice on 26 October.


Albert died on 19 October 1916, not a victim of enemy action or the ravages of malaria but as the result of an accident; the battalion was not in action at the time. He had been attached to the brigade trench mortar battery (78th Trench Mortar Battery) and was too close when a mortar round exploded, killing Albert and five others (Lt Cecil William Halfacre and Ptes  AH Anstey, FE Challenger, G Dean and WJ Lovell).


The battalion war diary briefly reported the incident:
7th Royal Berks,  Greece, Mamelon Franc, 19 October 1916
Enemy aeroplane over the line 0925 hours.  Later enemy shelled Picton des Zouaves during morning.  Coys worked in winter quarters and new line.  2LT C.W. Halfacre died of wounds 5 OR killed – 1 OR wounded in accident while attached 78th Trench Mortar battery.


The news of his death was sent to Patience in Newbury:


NWN 9 Nov 1916, p8 – Local War Notes
The War Office has notified his sister that Albert George Victor Allen, a Corporal in the Royal Berks, was killed at Salonika on October 19th. “Curley” will be missed by those who knew him.


Albert Allen's name on Newbury War Memorial (upper right)

Albert Allen's name on Newbury War Memorial(upper left)

Albert was buried at Sarigol Military Cemetery, Kriston, Greece in grave A.91. This cemetery was used by the 31st Casualty Clearing Station (CCS), suggesting that Alfred was not killed immediately and survived for long enough to reach the CCS.

Locally he is remembered (as G Allen) on Panel  6  of the Newbury Town War Memorial

Albert’s splendidly named brother Frank Hercules Allen served with the Hampshire Regiment. It is likely that other siblings (half, full and step) served in the forces, but there is not enough evidence to determine where.

Thanks to Karen Newbery for her help researching this casualty.

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 Died this day:
03 December 1917
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