Cecil Frederick Allen

Born: 21 October 1892

Died: 5 August 1918

Second eldest son of Fred T. Allen and Minnie Annette Allen.

Died of enteric fever, Hamedan, Iran.

Buried Tehran War Cemetery.

LOCAL SOLDIER DEAD. SERGEANT CECIL ALLEN. On Tuesday evening the rector of St. John's received the sad intimation for conveyance to Mr. Fred T. Allen, of Young, that his second eldest son, Sergeant Cecil F. Allen   had died of enteric fever in Mesopotamia on 5th August. The deceased soldier, who was in his 26th year, had won two promotions of the battlefield. He enlisted in Sydney early in the war, and went away with the first signalling corps which ever left Australia, and afterwards was attached to the Indian army. He participated in the capture of Bagdad. After long service he was returned to Australia on furlough, but returned to the battlefront in February of this year, again going to Bagdad. He was an old District School boy, and much esteemed by his comrades.
- Young Witness, Friday 16 August 1918

The following is the speech transcript of the Last Post Ceremony for Cecil Frederick Allen, at the Australian War Memorial, 22 September 2015:

Today we remember and pay tribute to Sergeant Cecil Allen, who died while fighting in Mesopotamia, or modern-day Iraq, during the First World War.

Cecil Frederick Allen was born in 1893, one of four sons of Frederick and Millie Allen of the Sydney suburb of Mosman, New South Wales. The Allen family had ties to both Sydney and the south-west slopes, which is where Cecil seemed to have spent most of his formative years. He attended school in Young and afterwards resided in Mosman, where he worked in the Commercial Bank. As well as periodically working as a clerk in a stock broker’s office, Allen was also a member of the Mosman Rifle Club.

Allen had previously tried enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force in the early months of the war, rejected on the basis of a deficient chest measurement. However, the fighting on Gallipoli had drained the available manpower needed to fill reinforcement quotas, so a relaxing of the enlistment standard in July 1915 allowed men like Allen to try a second time. Allen was accepted at Warwick Farm in August and was transferred as a driver for the newly raised No. 1 Pack Wireless Signal Troop to provide the British Indian Army with Marconi wireless sets and trained operators to maintain communications and intercept Ottoman Turkish signals in the fighting in Mesopotamia.

Later renamed the 1st Australian Pack Wireless Troop, the small company of 50 signallers left Australia in February 1916 for the fighting in Mesopotamia. Passing through Colombo and Bombay, they proceeded through the Persian Gulf and arrived in Basra in April 1916. From here they headed north-west to join the British 15th Indian Division at Nasiriyah. As a driver, Allen was responsible for transporting the troop’s powerful wireless transmitter on a six-horse limber wagon, thereby servicing the lighter and more mobile pack stations that formed the link between the infantry and its headquarters units. In September 1916 the wireless troop was reorganised as the 1st (ANZAC) Wireless Signal Squadron; Allen’s leadership skills were noted by his superiors and he was promoted to lance corporal as part of this restructure.

Between October 1916 and March 1917 the squadron participated in the British offensive that succeeded in driving the Ottomans up the Euphrates River, ultimately recapturing Baghdad. Now a sergeant, Allen was among the first allied troops to enter the city and was able to reestablish contact with Basra. As the British consolidated their gains Allen was given a month’s leave in India, and in March 1918, after the offensive continued, was granted one month furlough in Australia.

Allen returned to Mesopotamia as the British continued their advance towards the Tigris River. Although the fighting by this stage of the campaign was not as fierce, disease was endemic among the British troops. In August, as his squadron was operating in the area of Hamadan, Allen was admitted to a British field hospital with a serious case of enteric fever. He died shortly after on 8 August 1918, aged 25.

Allen was originally buried at the Military Cemetery at Hamadan, but was later reinterred in the grounds of the British Embassy at Tehran, where he rests today.

Cecil Allen is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, among more than 60,000 other Australians who died during the First World War.

This is just one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Sergeant Cecil Allen, and all of those Australians who have given their lives in service of our nation.

Aaron Pegram Historian, Military History Section

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