Henry Stewart Allen

Co. Derry

Boys will be boys

Henry Stewart Allen was born on June 2nd 1878 and was the son of William and Martha Allen. Growing up Henry lived at 120 Spencer Road Co.Derry and was a member of Ebrington Presbyterian Church in Londonderry. As a young boy of just 15 years, Henry saved another's life. 

As he walked home in his best Sunday clothes from Church past the Craigavon Bridge he noticed a man was in distress in the River Foyle. He quickly descended to the bank, noticing a passing soldier preparing to save the man, Henry dived into the water and helped the man to safety. For Henry's astonishing bravery he received the Royal Humane Society's Honorary Testimonial on Vellum as pictured below:    

A family man 

On 22nd February 1898, Henry married a young Margaret (nee Jackson) Allen from Dungiven Road. Throughout their marriage, Margaret gave birth to 10 children called William John, Martha, Henry, Margaret, Joseph, Samuel, David, Ellis and Robert. Unfortunately one died in infancy. The couple's youngest son, Robert, was born whilst Henry was fighting in the war. It was said that Henry never had the chance to meet his son but this was not true as Henry had got leave from the war and met his son at just six weeks old. This was the only time Henry and his son were together. 

This is Henry pictured with his wife Margaret whilst she is pregnant

The Start of the End 

Henry had not entered the war until 1915. He was a Company Serjeant Major, who was part of the 10th Battalion, "A Coy", Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. His Regimental Number was 15277. During Henry's time in the war, he had sent a letter to his brother-in-law John on 13/11/1915 which read;

"Dear John

           I have received your very welcome letter. Am very glad to hear yourself and Lizzie (Henry's sister, Elizabeth) is well as this leaves me enjoying good health. Tell Jonnie I was asking for him and hope soon to see him and you'se all again. We have been about 10 days in the trenches and are now back in rest camp we expect to be going back again in about 7 or 8 days. things are pretty quiet out here at present we are in a nice village sorry i can't tell you where we are. I hear there is all sort of rumours about Derry that we were all cut up and this sort of thing don't believe anything you hear if anything happens our own people will be the first to hear of it. the talk about us being in the reserve trenches is all rot we were in the firing line trench all the time. It is pretty safe as long as you  don't (show) keep your head up too long. The danger is sharpnel. the Germans sent plenty of it over only they had not got the range and it generally went over us and between the trenches. We had no casualties. I hope we will be as lucky next time. Tell all the boys i was asking for them. I wish i was at the pump shed again. I think this is all at present.


your brother Henry"

This is the original letter Henry had sent to John.

Henry had told John that he couldn't tell him where he was when writing the letter. It was later confirmed that his Battalion was in fact in the village of Beauval. This is a picture of Beauval Church.

Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 10th Battalion (Derry)

The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 10th Battalion was formed in Omagh, September 1914 from the Derry Volunteers.

It came under orders of the 3rd Brigade, Ulster Division and moved to Finner Camp.

On 21st January 1918, it disbanded in France and most officers were posted to the 2nd Battalion.   

This is the W.Os and Sergeants of the 10th Battalion pictured on New Years Day 1916. Henry is also pictured in this photo.

Far from home

On what was to be known as one of the bloodiest days in WW1, 1st July 1916, more than 58000 soldiers were killed on their journey in defeating the enemy. Henry, unfortunately was one of these men. Henry had been shot down in the attack from Thiepval wood to the Schwaben Redoubt at the age of 35. Two survivors of the war had said they remember Henry's last moments. Sgt Harry Wilson, also from Derry, said that Henry had "got one to himself". Another, Charlie McGahey, said he seen Henry fall forward on his mouth and nose. Although these men had said it was Henry it cannot be verified it was him as there was a lot of chaos on this horrific day and it might have been someone else. 

 Henry had left behind him a grieving wife and children, who I am sure sorely missed him.  What had made these events worst for the family is that Henry's body had not been recovered along with thousands of other men. 

Henry's family did not receive any medals or plaques for his great bravery in the war as he had only joined in 1915. However, if he had survived the war he would have been entitled to two medals.

Today, Henry's name can be found on the Thiepval Memorial Tower and the Diamond War Memorial in Derry.   

Henry's name on the Thiepval Memorial Tower

Background Story 

My name is Marcus Ward. I am 16 years old and have been selected to represent Co.Derry in the "Adopt a Soldier" programme. I had heard about this amazing opportunity in early November when my History teacher, Mrs Helen McGee had introduced one of the team leaders, David Dunlop, to my class. He explained that one of us could be in a chance of winning a once in a lifetime trip to Belgium/France where we will visit the many war cemeteries that had been made for the soldiers that had died in the Battle of the Somme.

Straight away, I was interested in it as, being a Catholic, we don't really learn about the First World War. I seen it as an opportunity to learn about how the soldiers had to suffer and to get a better understanding of the war.

To be in a chance of winning, we had to write a piece on why we felt we should be chosen. I knew my Great-Great Grandfather, James Callan, was in WW1, so I wrote about how he had entered when he was about 19 but had to come home as he had sustained shrapnel in his leg. I also wrote about how I was passionate about history and how i wanted to become a History Teacher when I left school. 

About a week later we had sent our pieces away and then the next week as we had morning assembly, my Principal announced that I had been offered the place on this exciting experience! I was so happy but i didn't expect to win as i was up against 7 other students and knew that it was a stiff competition because their pieces were fantastic too!

My Research 

In January we had been given our adopted soldier's name but unfortunately the soldier that was selected for me was very difficult to find research on so I emailed David Dunlop who was very helpful in finding me another soldier, Henry Stewart Allen . He had told me that this soldier was the grandfather of an ex colleague of his and that he would be very interested in helping me with my research. His name is Ernie Norris.

I managed to get in contact with Ernie who told me to come along to his house and he would give me all the information he knew. Fortunately, he knew A LOT about his grandfather's experience in the war and has actually visited Thiepval Tower other times before. He told me about Henry's family and gave me pictures to help me with my research. He also gave me a copy of a letter Henry had sent to his brother-in-law during the First World War. Ernie even managed to go into so much detail that he had even gave me the story of how his grandfather saved another's life! I was so glad I had the chance to meet a relative of my soldier and that he knew so much of his grandfather! 

7th March

On the 7th March I traveled down to Dubin (yes it was a very long journey but worth it) and got the chance to meet the other participants who are going on the trip at Collins Barracks.  We had to separate into groups according to our provinces and talk about our soldier to the rest of the group and then Gerry Moore who had organised the whole thing, told us the things we would be doing, including meeting the Irish President and that RTE would be making a documentary on our experience!

Me and the group of students who has had the chance of participating in this project

I am so glad I have been given the chance to take part in this amazing project and i am so thankful to the organisers of this trip. This project will give me the chance to understand the significance of the First World War and to pay tribute to all of the forgotten soldiers in the war.

I would like to thank Henry Stewart Allen's grandson Ernie for helping me through my research. I really am so grateful for all his help and i'm so glad I am giving his grandfather the recognition that he well and truly deserves!