William Arthur Francis ALLAN MM


ALLAN, William Arthur Francis

Service Numbers: 1466, 1466A
Enlisted: 17 July 1915, Bendigo, Victoria
Last Rank: Corporal
Last Unit: 9th Light Trench Mortar Battery
Born: South Melbourne, Victoria, July 1896
Home Town: Golden Square, Greater Bendigo, Victoria
Schooling: Golden Square State School
Occupation: Timber worker/Carter
Died: Died of wounds, Sailly-le-Sec France, 11 June 1918
Cemetery: Vignacourt British Cemetery
Buried Plot 3, Row C, No 16
Memorials: Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour
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World War 1 Service

17 Jul 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 1466, Bendigo, Victoria
23 Nov 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 1466, 9th Light Horse Regiment, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
23 Nov 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 1466, 9th Light Horse Regiment, HMAT Ceramic, Melbourne
2 Apr 1916: Transferred AIF WW1, Gunner, 15th Field Artillery Brigade
11 Jun 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Corporal, SN 1466A, 9th Light Trench Mortar Battery, Merris (France)

Dedication To A Brave Soldier

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Showing 1 of 1 story

Biography contributed by Dennis Allan



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Black Saturday.

 For nearly ninety years on a loungeroom wall of the home of the Allan family there hung, from a picture rail, a message from King George V. It expressed appreciation of the fact that William Francis Arthur Allan M.M. had been prepared to die for his country and Empire and commiserations on the fact that did give up his life in service.

On 7th February 2009 the State of Victoria experienced several bushfires that resulted in the loss of one life and much damage to property. Sixty-two homes in the city of Bendigo were destroyed in the fire there. One of the homes belonged to a great niece of William Allan, where, unfortunately, many family “treasures” were housed.

 Among the losses was the message from the King, the Allan family bible and, no doubt, many other items, such as letters from the Front, sent by the Allan boys. These would have assisted in the compilation of the Corporal William Francis Allan M.M.’s story and, if it were not for this loss, this dedication would have been much enhanced by detail.  Nevertheless, there is enough information available to allow for a creditable recording of William Francis Arthur Allan MM’s story.


Belgium Incident-and Return to England. Involving a relative of William Allan. 

We often hear of the attachment held by the Belgians and the French toward Australians because of the sacrifices made by The Diggers in WW1 &WW2.

A relative of William had an experience that demonstrated this attachment to perfection.

 His Story:

“Fifty-six years after the end of World War One I was fortunate enough to experience a trip to England and Europe. On our first night on the Continent I and my two fellow travellers experienced an incident that demonstrated the lasting depth of appreciation that the European Allies hold for Australians.

Sometime after arriving in England we purchased an English van, a Commer, in which to travel through Europe. We then headed off, travelling by ferry from Dover to the city of Ostend, Belgium. Having docked at around 10.00 p.m. We drove off the ferry then through the city into the countryside, farming country. We pulled up on a narrow road running through two crop fields and started to bed down for the night. Little did we know that we were on private property.

 In short time we heard a car roaring down the road and its coming to a screeching halt. Car doors slammed amidst very excited voice. Next the back doors of our van were being shaken violently. The three of us looked at each other uncertain of what to do. The violence continued until it got too much to stand. One of us said, ‘I am not staying in here,’ and with that he swung open the door and stepped out of the van to have a shotgun stuck in his face.

At that instant a voice from around the front of the van screamed out “Alright, alright, Australian, Australian.” The gun was lowered, and our “visitors” departed, without saying another word.

I and my companions are forever grateful to the van’s previous owner who had put that kangaroo sticker on the front of our van.

Some months later when I returned to England something of similar vein occurred at customs when the border official after inspecting my luggage greeted me with a:

 ‘Welcome back to England Mr Allan.’

These events happened well before the internet made research an easy task. All I knew of William Allan was that I had a great uncle who had fought and died in WW1 and that he was buried somewhere in France.

 Thoughts were directed to him later, as we came back down south from Holland.

 As it was toward the tens of thousands of his fellow Australians who lay buried there.”




William’s paternal grandfather, John Allan, was English. He emigrated from the town of Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, in the early 1850’s. Like many of his countrymen he came to Australia to participate in the Victorian gold rush.

Upon arrival in Melbourne John Allan headed to Fryerstown on the Central Victorian Goldfields. Sometime later he met a Scottish girl, Catherine Auchinluick. They married in 1854, at nearby  Castlemaine. The wedding ceremony took place in the school house.

Coming forward, Williams’ father, Walter Frederick Allan, was born to John and Catherine, at Saw Pit Gully, Fryerstown, in 1859.

Walter Frederick Allan married Catherine Young in 1882 in Maldon Victoria.

William was born to Walter Frederick and Catherine in 1896, at South Melbourne. He was the fifth born child in a family of eight children.

He had three brothers: Edward, Percy, Walter and Leslie; and three sisters, Catherine, Elsie and Muriel.

In 1897 the family moved to Bendigo where they resided in their home “Tarrengower”, 28 Booth Street, Golden Square.

William Allan was not the only member of the Allan family who would come to serve in WW1. His brother Walter (Service No: 1509) also served in the First AIF.

Walter enlisted at the age of 23, just three months after war began.

He embarked for overseas service on 16th December 1914 and fought in the Eighth Battalion at Gallipoli and then Egypt.

Given that the Allan boys family lineage ran back just one generation to meet English/Scottish stock it is not surprising that there were two Allan boys who reacted positively to the call to defend “The Mother Country.”

Prior to Enlistment in the First AIF.

In his youth William attended the Golden Square State School. We do not know if his education extended beyond this. He worshipped at the Golden Square Methodist Church.

Sometime in his teen years William donned uniform. Federal legislation had been enacted in 1909 introducing military training for Australian youth. This obligated those who were aged between 12 and 14 years of age to enrol as Junior Cadets, and those aged 14-18 to enrol in the Senior Cadets.

William’s Attestation Papers record him as having served as a Senior Cadet.

 He would have enrolled as a cadet at the Golden Square Army Depot in Allingham Street Golden Square. He most likely did his drilling at the sports oval adjoining it.

At the time William enlisted in the First AIF his occupation was as a carter. He was employed by the Bendigo timber and hardware merchant company, Hume and Iser.


Military Service-First AIF.

Sometime prior to his enlisting William would have given thought to serving his country.

It was only shortly after war broke out that an elder brother had enlisted, and we can imagine William keeping an eye on the calendar with the intent of joining him when he attained the minimum enlistment age.

In July 1915 he set off down Booth Street to the Golden Square Drill Hall. On the way he would have passed by the Golden Square Methodist church, the Golden Square State School and then the Golden Square Railway Station, at which many Bendigo men had boarded trains to join in on the same “adventure” that he was undertake.

There are bay windows that face down Booth Street in the Allan family home.

 Mothers being mothers it is most likely that William’s mother was standing at them, watching her second son heading off to sign on for the country.



At the Golden Square Depot William was required to affirm certain matters such as his age and nationality.

 His physical characteristics were recorded. With his height being just 5ft, 51/2 inches (166.37 cm) and weighing 8 stone 4lb (52 Kilo).

William was certainly small in stature. However, as he would demonstrate down the track, stature does not necessarily define character.

 Having satisfied requirements, he signed the oath and became a soldier of the 1st AIF on 17th July 1915. He was aged 19.

 Given the service number 1466 and the pay book number 7887, he was listed as one of the numbers to make up the 12th reinforcement of the 9th Light horse Regiment.


Basic Training Camp-Seymour.

On the June 1st, 1915 authorities decided that the basic training camp at Broadmeadows on the outside of Melbourne would be temporarily closed. Illness and several deaths, along with the onset of winter rain causing the ground to become a muddy quagmire, forced this decision.

Broadmeadow personnel were transferred to Seymour and new recruits were posted there to do their basic training. This included William Allan who had enlisted around two months after the Seymour move.

We do not know the exact date that William left Bendigo, nor the direction he travelled. He may have gone via Melbourne or travelled directly to Seymour through Heathcote-on the rail line which ran along what is now the O’Keefe Trail. We are left to surmise.

After three months basic training at Seymour William was transferred to the Broadmeadows Camp, arriving there 25th October 1915.

If good fortune was shining he would have travelled by train to Broadmeadows Railway Station leaving him with a short walk to camp. On the other hand, it may be that he marched the 17 kilometres from the Victoria Barracks in St Kilda Road as this had been the practice prior to the temporary closure of Broadmeadows. *

The last of what we know of William’s time at Broadmeadows is his being inoculated against typhoid on 9th October and 23rd December 1915.

He had been a member of the 1st AIF for five months.

With his basic training compete embarkation time had come.

Because of a lack of documentation, we do not know if William was granted leave to visit his family immediately prior to his departing Australia.

*Army practice was that Broadmeadow recruits assembled at Victoria Barracks, St. Kilda Road, and then marched through the city to camp. One can imagine the thoughts of the new soldiers as they considered the easier, and what would have been seen by them as the more sensible alternative of going by train.  However, there was a purpose behind walking. By marching through the city and suburbia recruitment was promoted. It was also the start of their physical fitness program.


Embarkation and Arrival in Egypt.

On 23rd November 1915 William embarked for Egypt, sailing from Port Melbourne on HMAT Ceramic.

He arrived in Egypt sometime prior to 6th March 1916. Upon arrival he travelled by train to Tel-el-Kabir, which is some 17 kilometres from Cairo.

The 1st and 2nd Divisions of the AIF had recently evacuated from Gallipoli. Their arrival in Egypt had preceded that of the reinforcements from Australia.

It was here that the Australians would reform the AIF after the unmitigated disaster at Gallipoli.


Formation of The Fifth Division – Tel-el-Kabir.

A major part of the reorganization taking place at Tel-el-Kabir was the birth of the 4th and 5th Divisions.

 It was determined that each of the new Divisions would be partly manned by personnel with front line experience: those who had fought in the Gallipoli campaign, and the personnel who had been in Egypt for some time defending the Suez Canal.

William would be fighting alongside men who had recently experienced combat, and defeat.

Formation of new ancillary units took place.

William volunteered to become a member of the 5th Division Artillery Field Brigade.

The role he would play in the war had been settled. He was to be a mortar man.


The Long March.

About the 20th of March 1916 the 5th Division received instructions to take over a sector of the front line of the Suez Canal defences. Immediate steps were taken to arrange for the move from Tel-el-Kebir to Ferry Post in the canal zone.

If William had been unfortunate enough to have been ordered to march to Broadmeadows camp some months previously his volunteering for artillery brought him better fortune in Egypt when the 5th Division moved on to Pert Ferry.

There was a train line running from Tel-el-Kabir to Ferry Post but, as it often does, authority decided against what would be sensible.

The 8th Brigade’s move was a matter of urgency as it was to be the first to take over the defence of the Suez Canal.

 The powers to be decided that only the (the 8th Brigade) would travel by train, the rest of the infantry would march.

 It was a three-day, seventy-kilometre long foot slog through soft sand in extreme heat. The result was a shemozzle of the first order. Ambulances followed at the rear, picking up exhausted troops.

William’s 15th Artillery Brigade was the last to move. He departed Tel-el-Kabir for Port Ferry around 20th April.

 Unlike the infantry the artillery units travelled by train.


Defence of The Suez Canal.

The frontline defence of the Suez Canal was some eight miles east of the waterway- sufficient a distance for the canal to be put beyond the range of Turkish artillery. William’s 15th Brigade manned the forward defence for four weeks and it was here that he was introduced to the trench; plenty of which he would experience down the track.

There was no conflict with the enemy at this time, however there was some excitement when a Turkish reconnaissance plane flew in the vicinity and there was one occasion when a patrolling party captured some Turks.

To France.

On 15th June 1916 the 5th Division began entraining for the Egyptian port of Alexandria. Trains departed from Moascar, some five-mile distant from Ferry Port.

An eight-hour 240-kilometre journey saw William in Alexandria where he immediately embarked for Marseille.

Within eight days the entire 5th Division had departed Egypt for France. The last of the nine boats to leave Alexandria sailed on 20th The journey to France took three days. William disembarked at Marseilles on 24th June.

Upon arrival at Marseille the troops entrained immediately for the journey north. William travelled on one of the thirty trains required to transport the 5th Divisions twelve thousand men.

By 30th June the entire Division had departed Marseille.


The Journey to Northern France

.(A passage from Captain A. D. Ellis’s, MC, The Story of the Fifth Division.)


“If the novelty and beauty of the passage across the Mediterranean

had delighted the men they were but a small thing in comparison with

the enchantment of the fairy land through which they now travelled.

There may be more beautiful places in the world than the south of

France in June, but few of the 5th Australian Division had seen them,

or will see them. And after so many months of the Egyptian desert,

or the barren horror of the Gallipoli Peninsula, the revelation was the

more startling, the charm the more potent. The beauty of the

countryside went to the men's heads as its wine would have done.

Thrilled and intoxicated by it, they crowded round the windows,

laughing, cheering, and admiring, their spirits on the very crest of a

wave of exuberance.

For many miles the route lay along the valley of the stately Rhone,

which there flows through a countryside of extraordinary fertility,

a garden of wonderful opulence. Near by were golden fields in which

the peasants were already busy with scythe and sickle. They would

pause in their work as the cheering troop trains drew near and wave

glad greetings to the tempestuous salutations which vollej'^ed from

every window ; or, perhaps, some girl would detach herself from a

group sitting at lunch, and, rising in true French courtesy, would

toast the passing soldiers in a glass of wine, the red of which glowed

richly against the mellow gold of the fields behind, while her dark

eyes shone and her face lit up with her welcome to the men who were

hastening to the deliverance of France. The valley was dotted with

farms, each of which in robes of creepers and grape vines was a bower

of beauty, while, on the " castled crags " of the more distant heights,

stately chateaux stood sentinel, the white of their gates and columns

gleaming amid the parks of trees around them. For a short time,

too, if one looked out to the east, one caught the glimpse of some far

away mountain crest, an outpost peak perhaps of the mighty chain of

Alps that lay in that direction.


But if the welcome of the peasants in the fields was cordial, it had

not, and could not have, the concerted enthusiasm that marked the

greetings of the populous towns. In these, every door, and every

window, and every place that afforded a view of the passing trains

was packed with cheering parties, waving flags and handkerchiefs, or

shouting " Vive I'Australie " and other appropriate greetings. As for

the troops, they did everything in their power to express their

acknowledgments in whatever way they deemed most suitable. They

sang the " Marseillaise " and their regimental anthems ; they waved

and cheered, and applauded the French and themselves with equal

enthusiasm. In heroic but futile attempts to make themselves

understood, they roared out greetings in pigeon English or atrocious

Arabic. A hundred times they sang " Australia will be there " with

such impressiveness that it was soon afterwards noted by the leading

French papers, which translated it for the benefit of their readers

under the proud title, " Australie Sera La." It is extraordinary how

a wretched melody set to an atrocious jingle of words will at times

capture the heart of an entire continent, so that even intelligent

people thrill to it, or, rather, to its associations.


And so the Division made its first journey through beautiful,

tragic France. On the second day, Paris was passed to the east and

all eyes were turned in its direction. Little could be seen except the

top of the Eiffel Tower, yet the magnetism of the city seemed to fall

upon all, and one was reminded somehow of the dramatic invocation

in Charpentier's opera, " Louise." The line wound through charming

suburbs in the vicinity of Versailles, but it soon headed north again

and Paris was left behind.


The stations known as " haltes repas " were often the scenes of

animated incidents. At one, a courtly French colonel, assisted by

a group of charming girls, entertained the officers at luncheon, and,

after an eloquent speech, which nobody comprehended but every-

body applauded, kissed on both cheeks the astonished Australian

colonel who stood beside him. At another " halte repas " a large

number of French residents collected outside the railway yard, which

was there surrounded by a high fence. As the civilians included

a large proportion of pretty girls it was not long before many of the

soldiers were in close conversation with them, and many a kiss was

exchanged without visible detriment to either party, or, in most

cases, to the fence between them. These tender salutations were not

infrequently accompanied by a gift to the lady of a tin of bully-beef,

an article not ordinarily used as a medium of sentimental expression.


As the miles were left behind the appearance of the country

gradually changed. Though still rich and pleasant to the eye, the

vegetation lacked something of the exuberance that it had possessed

further south. The temperature was distinctly lower and the skies

looked rainy. Thus Amiens was passed, and Abbeville, and the

trains proceeded on their long journey up the coast, through Etaples,

Boulogne, and Calais. Near the last named town the direction

changed suddenly from north to a little south of east, and in another

thirty miles the new divisional area was reached.”


Whilst the body of the 5th Division had proceeded on, William’s journey to the front was interrupted with a detour to Les Ciseaux where he arrived on 2nd July 1916. There he spent several days at a mortar training school.

Four days before going into action William was assigned his place in the 5th Division’s Artillery.

He became one of the crew of the 15th Brigade’s Y5A Medium Trench Mortar Battery.


The Battle of Fromelles.

The soldiers of the 5th Division were the most inexperienced of the Australian troops. However, they would be the first Australians to see major action in France. The action was the Battle of Fromelle. It commenced a week after their going into the trenches.

Fromelle was the first of many battles that the 5th Division of the 1st AIF would participate in during the next two years. Mortar batteries played an important part in them.

Because officers and personnel of the Divisions Trench Mortar Batteries had not yet had a fortnight's experience of their new arm. The decision was made to bring in some experience for the upcoming battle.

Support was provided by five trench mortar batteries on loan from the 4th Division.

The 5th Division battery personnel were distributed among the loaned batteries to assist wherever possible and for them to learn all they could of their trade.

Where there was naivety in a soldier as to the sheer brutality of war all was to be made crystal clear to him. In very short time.

Later, when all was done, one writer said of the battle:

"Hundreds were mown down in the flicker of an eyelid, like great rows of teeth knocked from a comb, but still the line went on, thinning and stretching. Wounded wriggled into shell holes or were hit again. Men were cut in two by streams of bullets. And still the line went on... It was the charge of the Light Brigade once more, but more terrible, more hopeless."

A mere ten minutes had passed since 6pm.”

By any standard of measurement Williams 5th Division suffered severely in the Fromelle Battle with 5,533 casualties, of which 1,917 were killed.

This battle was the first of many that this brave little soldier would play a part.

He would be, as Australians call it, “In the thick of it” for two years.

Much of the mix would be as nasty as that of the Fromelle Battle.


Mortar Work.

William’s story cannot be fully told without giving an appreciation of the work of trench mortar crews. The role they played and the danger they faced.

There were three types of mortar used: Heavy, Medium and Light.

The heavy mortar was sited some distance back from the enemy position, the medium mortar somewhat closer and the light mortar forward of them.

The medium mortar would “hurl” a bomb from between 90 to 500 metres.

 At the shorter (multiples of cricket pitch) distance, at which Light Trench Mortar crew operated, the enemy were so close that each side could hear the other talking. Of the three type of mortar batteries the light trench mortar crews lived most dangerously, they being closest to the enemy.

 Inevitably, mortar positions came under fire from enemy artillery once their presence was detected and the casualty rate among mortar crew tells the story. Two years of warfare saw Ninety-one of the 15th Division mortar crew lose their lives.

 It is little wonder that mortar batteries came to be called Suicide Squads.

An incident related by Percy Smythe in his diary illustrates why mortar crews were so named:

“One of the 52nd Battalion's Stokes trench mortar crews had bad luck. A shell landed amongst them, exploding the Stokes bomb they had in the mortar and a number of others stacked nearby ready to use. Didn't hear what happened to the mortar, but the crew of six men, or at least what could be found of their remains was carried away in a couple of sandbags.“

A mortar crew usually consisted of at least three members each with a specific task. The gunner controlled the deflection and elevation. The assistant gunner loaded the round at the command of the gunner. The Ammunition man prepared and handed over ammunition to the assistant gunner.

When acting as a No 1 Gunner William shouldered a heavy responsibility in the setting up of the mortar and commanding the firing. And it was for more than one reason that his accuracy and timing was important, for killing the enemy was just one aspect of the task. Avoiding “friendly fire” (fratricide) incidents was another.

As well as ordinary bombing exercises, mortars were also used to keep the enemy’s head down (creeping barrage) whilst the infantry advanced toward the enemy trench.  Ill timing and inaccuracy saw many instances where infantrymen were killed by their own (friendly) fire.

Entries in War Diaries tell us that death from friendly fire incidents were regarded as being part and parcel of mortar work. It was a numbers game. The ratio of enemy killed to those killed by their own mortar bombs being recorded.

One other aspect of mortar crew life was the time spent at the front.

As well as taking part in significant battles, during interludes - when the records show that things were relatively quiet, mortar crews would still be at work, harassing the enemy, whilst others were back resting.


Award of Military Medal.

The recommendation that William Allan be awarded the Military Medal was made by the Commanding Officer of the 5th Division Artillery, Brigadier General S. E. Christian. It reads:

“During operations near Fleurbaix on 16th Sept 1916, Gunner Allan displayed commendable gallantry, and by his fearless courage under heavy concentrated enemy fire inspired the remainder of the detachment to keep the mortar firing, although two of the number had already been wounded. Gunner Allan was himself wounded just on the last round being fired. Although Gunner Allan is employed as a Batman he has always volunteered for duty with the Mortar Detachment, and he has invariably been allotted a place.”

The recommendation was received by the Fifth Division’s Commanding Officer, Major General McCay, who signalled his approval by signing it before it was forwarded onto the King, George V.

 We are left in the dark as to whether William knew that the officer who countersigned the recommendation that he be awarded the recognition was born and lived in Castlemaine, a city not far distant from William’s home town of Bendigo; and even closer, just eight kilometres, from Fryerstown, the birth place of his father. It is indeed a small world.


Toward the End.

January 1918 William was granted nine days leave and journeyed to Paris. He returned to duty on 26th January.

In February there was a major reorganization of the 5th Division and the Medium Trench Mortar Batteries were reformed.

This saw the end of the 5YA Medium Trench Mortar Battery and William was posted to the 5th Divisions 9th Medium Trench Mortar Battery

On 2nd March he went on leave for eighteen days, holidaying in England for the second time.

He returned to duty on the 20th March.


Death-June 11, 1918.

The end of April 1918 saw the end of the German Somme offensive and during May and June there would be no major offensive by either side. However, enemy artillery was still at work and, despite the lull, during May the division suffered nearly 700 casualties.

On 10th June the Australians undertook their first action as a Corps. The objective was to capture the German frontline defences at Morlancourt and Sailly Laurette, the latter being just two kilometres distant from Sailly-le-Sec,. The attack was a success and all objectives were captured with heavy losses being inflicted on the enemy. Australian losses were about 400 men.

The report filed in the 9th Medium Trench Mortar Battery’s War Diary for the 11th June 1918 tells us that it was an overcast day with limited visibility. An enemy reconnaissance aircraft had flown over the area the previous day. There had been intermittent enemy bombing on 11th June

William was acting as No 1 in the No 2 mortar crew.

“The enemy put a barrage along Sailly-le-Sec. On the 50th round fired by the No 2 mortar a shell landed about 6’ from same wounding No 1 of the detachment covering the mortar in debris and putting it put of action. Casualties to personnel is No 1644 Cpl WFA Allan (wounded arm and leg) & evacuated.”

William was ambulanced some forty kilometre to the 20th British Casualty Clearing Station at Vignacourt and died there of wounds received the same day.


Soldiers Tread.

Though I rejoice, and watch with proud

Dimmed eyes

The flag my sons have died for float

Against the skies.

You will forgive and understand, who have

No dead to mourn,

That though I share your pride and joy

I feel forlorn

When other mothers' brown-faced sons

march by

With soldier tread


(Dear gallant boys, I love them all, yet then

I mourn my dead).


One near Aegean seas sleeps well;

The wild thyme scents his grave.

One sleeps in France; in dreams

I see red poppies o'er him wave.


Rejoicing, I watch with you to-day

The flag they died for float against the skies.

Victory is ours, and if my tears fall fast

You will forgive-no brown-faced sons of

Mine march past.


Williams mother would see one son return to Australian soil.

 Just one.


So Near, So Far.

William had fought on the Western Front for just on two years and was a shade short of seeing the end of hostilities with the armistice of 11/11/1918, dying just five months beforehand.

In March 1918, the 5th Divisions 13th and 15th Brigades had blunted the German Spring Offensive when they took back the town of Villers Bretonneux and brought an end to the German advance to Amiens.

Following his death, the 5th Division won distinction in the Battle of Amiens on 8th August, the capture of Peronne on 2 September, and the assault on the Hindenburg Line at Bellicourt.

The 5th Division infantry saw its last action in early October though its artillery remained (as it so often did) in action until October 24th.

One soldier summed up the situation after the Australians returned to the rear at Vignacourt:

“At Vignacourt we faced an era of peace. We did not know it, but we were destined never to go back to that hell of mud and steel in the north.”

It was at Vignacourt on the 11 November 1918 that news was received that the fighting had ended.

William would be one of the many who did not join the celebrations.




On 27th June 1918 the Allan family were notified of William’s death by Rev Rankin.

On 13th July, just sixteen days after learning of his son’s fate, William’s father passed away, aged fifty-nine years

William’s mother lived for a further thirty-six years, passing away in 1954.

She is interred at the Bendigo Cemetery along with her husband.

The Dead Man’s Penny.

“The Dead Man’s Penny is a commemorative medallion which was presented to the next-of-kin of the men and women who died during World War One. The bronze medallion features an image of Lady Britannia surrounded by two dolphins (representing Britain’s sea power) and a lion (representing Britain) standing over a defeated eagle (symbolising Germany). Around the outer edge of the medallion are the words ‘He died for freedom and honour’. Next to Lady Britannia is the deceased soldiers name, with no rank provided to show equality in their sacrifice. The Dead Man’s Penny was accompanied by a letter from King George V, stating ‘I join with my grateful people in sending you this memorial of a brave life given for others in the Great War.”

The Dead Man’s Penny issued to William’s mother is placed on his parent’s grave.



Memorial Scroll, Victory Medal and Star Medal

In 1922 a Memorial Scroll was presented to the next of kin of those soldiers, sailors, and nurses who died while serving in the Australian Imperial Force or Royal Australian Navy during the First World War.

The Memorial Scroll bears the Royal Coat of Arms and a message paying tribute to the soldiers who gave up "their own lives that others might live in freedom."

Military Medal

In March 1919 William’s mother received an invitation to attend a public presentation ceremony in Melbourne at which the Military Medal awarded to William would be presented.

Along with the invitation was the advice that the Department could not be responsible for any expenses incurred.

William’s mother advised the Department that she would prefer to receive the medal in private.



Vignacourt Cemetery.

 Vignacourt is a village in the Department of the Somme, Northern France.

 The military cemetery is located at the entrance to the village.

When the German advance began in March 1918, Vignacourt was occupied by the 20th and 61st Casualty Clearing Stations. The cemetery was begun in April and closed in August. The burials there reflect the desperate fighting of the Australian forces on the Amiens front.

Although the cemetery is a British one, the vast majority of the graves belong to Australians.

The cemetery contains 584 First World War burials. 

It has a monument erected by the village in honour of the Commonwealth dead. It is a statue of a French soldier, on the base of which are engraved the words:

 "Freres D'armes de L'Armee Britannique, tombes au Champ D'Honneur, dormez en paix. Nous veillons sur vous."

("Brothers in arms of the British Army, fallen on the field of honour, sleep in peace; we are watching over you.")


Corporal William Francis Arthur Allan MM was laid to rest at Vignacourt on the 12th June 1918.

He does not lie alone.

 Alongside him lie nearly four hundred Australians

two of whom: 

Walter Charles Kilfeder


Henry Thornton

are fellow Bendigonians.

May all RIP.