Lieutenant Geoffrey Allen, Essex Regiment

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Geoffrey Austin Allen was born at Greenstead Hall, Halsted, Essex, 3 June 1887. He was the 8th of the 9 children of Robert Allan of R.A. Allen, Maltsters, of Sudbury, Suffolk – a family firm founded in the 18th Century and his wife Tryphena. Geoffrey went to Aldenham School in 1897, and left in 1904 at the age of seventeen. As it was intended that he should take up farming he attended a course of County Council lectures on agricultural science at Chelmsford; at the final examination he came out second on the list of candidates and was awarded a Scholarship of £50 a year for two years at Cambridge. He was strongly advised by the lecturers at Chelmsford to accept this, and entered St John’s in 1905, taking the first Part of the Natural Sciences Tripos in 1908 and the Second Part in 1909. He rowed ‘seven’ in the winning Senior College Trial Eight in November 1908, ‘six’ in the First Lent Boat of 1909, and ‘five ‘ in the Second Boat in the May Races of 1909. He remained in Cambridge for a year after taking his degree, specialising in Botany. On leaving Cambridge he obtained a Mastership at the Grammar School at Wotton-under-Edge in Gloucestershire; later he became second Master at Milton Abbas Grammar School, Blandford, Dorset.

He enlisted in the Artists’ Rifles early in September 1914. From his enlistment documents we know that he was 6′ tall and trained with them in London until January 1915 when he sailed to France to continue training. Geoffrey was posted to the 2nd Battalion the Essex Regiment (2 ESSEX) in July 1915 as a ‘Temporary’ (i.e. for the duration of the war only) 2nd Lieutenant.

On 1 July 1916 (the first day of the Battle of the Somme), 2 ESSEX formed part of 12 Brigade, 4th Division. 4 Div were in position to attack the German line between Serre and Beaumont Hamel towards the northern end of the whole advance. Geoffrey, with his scouts of 10 platoon, C Company 2 ESSEX advancing ahead of the main battalion had penetrated almost to the third German line when he was wounded in the right thigh by machine-gun fire about 9.30a.m. The wound was attended to and he was laid on the fire-step of the German trench; as the Regiment was outflanked on both sides and there were no reinforcements the order was given to retire, and it was thought safer to leave Geoffrey where he was. His Scout Observer remained with him and says that Lt Allen continued to give orders till at the last. The Germans started bombing about 4.30 p.m. and it was then that Geoffrey was killed. He was wearing his second pip by permission, although he had not then been formally gazetted as a full lieutenant. He was officially listed as ‘missing’ for nearly a year and efforts were made via the American Embassy (then not at war with Germany) and the Red Cross to discover if he had been made a prisoner of war. His scout was made a prisoner by the Germans, and it was only after some time that Lieutenant Alien’s fate was certainly known. Geoffrey was one of 22 Officer and 400 Other ranks casualties suffered by the battalion that day. [Even at full strength which it probably wasn’t on July 1st the battalion establishment was for 30 Officers and 1000 men.]

Kathleen Lady Berkeleys School War Memorial

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGeoffrey’s body was never found, and he is commemorated on the Theipval Memorial to the missing. His name also appeared on the memorials at Aldenham School; at St John’s Cambridge; and at the two schools he taught at: Kathleen Lady Berkeley’s School Wotton-under-Edge; and Milton Abbas Grammar School, Blandford.