Private 18th later 10th Battalion Royal Fusiliers

Edward Allen was the elder son of Edward Launcelot Baugh Allen who had been born in Pembrokeshire, the son of a clergyman who had been educated at Westminster School and King’s College School in London and then at Trinity College Cambridge.  The family moved to Cumberland and then back to parishes in different parts of Wales.  On census day 1871 Edward was a 16 year old pupil at Rugby School.  I haven’t been able to trace his higher education nor find him in the UK in the censuses of 1881 and 1891 so it is possible he had already embarked on a trading or diplomatic career abroad.  He was in Chester in October 1893 to marry Blanche Isabella Adelaide Wale.  She had been born in Little Shelford, Cambridgeshire in 1861 and was only 3 when her father Charles Brent Wale died in Switzerland.  Her mother was the daughter of Archbishop Whateley of Dublin.

Soon after their marriage Edward and Blanche travelled to Pagoda Anchorage near Fuzhou in South East China where Edward was Vice-Consul.  As a father he registered the birth of his son and endorsed it in his professional role in September.  By the time the second son, Lionel, was born in February 1897 Edward senior was a full consul and they were based in nearby Pakhoi (now Beihai).  The consulate residence and offices had been built in 1887 on 20 acres of land bought in 1884 as the port became increasingly important for trade and as a Chinese naval base.  It wasn’t a popular place; a later commentator describing the neighbouring Mercy Hospital, pointed out that it was probably used by the consular staff as it was rare to find “consular officials who did not go mad or become depressed during their posting at this isolated treaty port”.  By 1901 the family had returned to Wales but on census day were not together.  It is tempting to think that the marriage had suffered during the stressful Chinese posting.  Edward senior was with his younger brothers in Llandaff; Blanche and the boys, aged 6 and 4, were in Tenby.  Their sole servant was a “Nurse Domestic” perhaps for the boys but also possibly to look after Blanche who was to die at the age of 46 on 7th September 1907.  Her husband was not named as executor in her will.

I’ve found no evidence of the boys’ elementary education.  When Edward arrived at Bedales for the Autumn Term of 1907 he must have been an unhappy boy, raw with grief from the death of his mother.  The last phase of the development of the Quad was underway – new classrooms and laboratories on the west side and the completion of the glass roof.  This was a popular move, providing shelter in winter but able to be airy, with the windows open, if the summer was hot.  In 1907 – 08 the girls were facing a greater upheaval with the major rebuilding of Steephurst being carried out by architect W. F. Unsworth (and the building of Steepcot for the return of Mrs Badley’s sister and her husband Charles Rice in 1908).  Unsworth had also designed the new Sanatorium and much effort was expended by the pupils on the final levelling of pitches and tennis courts.  School life was progressing smoothly by the end of 1908.  The only major building work during the rest of Edward’s school career was the raising of the New Hall (designed by Ernest Gimson and built under the direction of Geoffrey Lupton OB) just before he left in 1912.

Unlike his younger brother, Edward Allen doesn’t feature in the school publications apart from being awarded 2 stars (5 was the maximum) for his nature work in the Summer Show of 1910 along with a small award in ‘Prize work’ for his writing and two stars for his photographs and notes on birds the following year.  He later claimed that ornithology was his chief interest at school.  On census day 1911 both Edward and Lionel were at school; their widowed father was at his Club in London.  Edward left Bedales at the end of the Spring Term in 1912, about four months short of his eighteenth birthday.

I haven’t found any information about how Edward spent the next eighteen months but by January 1914 he was a clerk at Lloyds Bank in Cardiff.  Soon after the outbreak of war he volunteered for military service but unfortunately his records as a Private were casualties of the Second World War bombing of the place to which archives had been removed for safety.  Edward’s regiment is variously described but I think it was the Royal Fusiliers, the London Regiment; he was placed in the 18th Battalion, also known as the Public School Battalion.  In 1915 the Bedales Chronicle placed him with “the University and Publics School Corps”.  The Bedales Roll of 1934 stated that he had joined the 18th Battalion on 30th November 1914.  This claim is supported by the fact that the battalion landed in France in November 1915 and, at the National Archives, the Medal Card for Private Edward A F Allen, service number 6386, says he arrived in France on the 14th November 1915.  This makes his active war service a good deal longer than many of his school contemporaries; not surprising as the general expectation of life of young 2nd and full lieutenants was much shorter than that of the private soldier.

The 18th battalion was disbanded in February 1916; many of its members became officers but Edward remained as a Private in the 10th Battalion, familiarly known as “the Stockbrokers”.  So far I haven’t found a War Diary for the battalion for that period so cannot describe the experiences of the next year.  He must have been wounded in the closing days of the final conflict on the Somme – the Battle of the Ancre – and died of his wounds on 21st November, three days after the official end of the battle.  He was buried in grave plot I G 36 in Varennes Military Cemetery.  The Commonwealth War Graves Commission gives this explanation of the use of the cemetery. “The cemetery was laid out by the 39th Casualty Clearing Station in August 1916, during the Battle of the Somme, but the first burials were made during August and September by more mobile divisional field ambulances. The 4th and 11th Casualty Clearing Stations then used the cemetery from October 1916.”  If I can find War Diaries for these Clearing Stations I might be able to discover when Edward was injured.

Lionel became a Lieutenant in the South Wales Borderers and survived to March 1918; he will be commemorated in 2018.

Sources:  Bedales Archives: TNA: genealogical sites ancestry & findmypast