William Allen enlisted twice. On his initial enlistment papers dated 1914, he quite rightly stated that he had been convicted by a civil power for ‘minor offences’. This information possibly gave Lt. Col Clarke a reason not to accept William Allen who was a 40 year old man, despite the fact that he had spent 17 years in the Royal Navy.
While his attempt to enlist in August 1914 had resulted in his discharge, he was still prepared to serve and attempted to enlist again in June 1915. Being entirely honest about his previous convictions for what he termed as minor offences, he was accepted and allotted to the 15th Battalion.
Soon after arriving with the battalion in the Middle East, he was admitted to hospital. Next came a series of charges most relating to his conduct in the field – a field general court martial held on 28 July 1916 involving his wilful defiance of authority and other offences resulted in a sentence of discharge with ignominy from his majesty’s service and 5 years penal servitude. This was later commuted to two years penal servitude with hard labour which he served in France. Despite the recommendation that he be discharged, on the completion of his penal servitude he was discharged to duty. Allen’s two years of penal servitude did nothing towards changing his attitude and two further charges of being AWOL appear on his service record before being finally discharged in October 1918 due to age and debility.
Maybe it is more fitting to focus on the fact that William Allen had spent 17 years in the Royal Navy and despite his poor record during his time in the First AIF had been willing to join up. Who knows what forces were at work when asked to go on parade at Naours on 24 July 1916 as the battle for Pozieres raged all about.
William John Allen died at the Hobart Hospital on 8 February 1927 aged 57 years.