Feature

We Remember: Tragedy takes three

The wooden bunkhouse the Allen brothers once slept in at the back of the family homestead, forms part of the Kookaburra Park eco-village. Photo Contributed
The wooden bunkhouse the Allen brothers once slept in at the back of the family homestead, forms part of the Kookaburra Park eco-village. Photo Contributed Contributed

AS AUSTRALIA prepared to farewell its first contingent of troops from Western Australia, thoughts of who might make it home were no doubt in the backs of the minds of many families.

There are countless stories of families who said goodbye to sons and daughters and tragically, they never saw them again.

One such family faced with this reality was the Allen family of Gin Gin.

Three brothers - Ernest, James and Josiah Allen - all enlisted on the same day - July 5, 1916.

They were considered as skilled marksmen and horsemen, and left from Sydney three months later as reinforcements for the 49th Infantry Battalion aboard HMAT Ceramic.

The brothers wrote regular letters home, in particular to brother William, and some of these letters are now in the hands of the Australian War Memorial.

Having been sent to England and then the Western Front, the brothers fought at the battle of Messines on June 7, 1917, and it was here that both James and Josiah were killed in action.

A letter home from Josiah dated April 18, 1917, is heartbreakingly marked "Killed in Action" on the back - it took several months to reach his family.

A letter a month earlier from Ernest remarked he and his compatriots had been pleased the 1916 referendum on conscription had failed, saying his mates had commented "they would be sorry to see their friends enlist to come over here to fight".

In a letter dated October 10, 1917, - after the Allen family back home in Gin Gin had finally learned of James' and Josiah's deaths - Ernest wrote to his brother: "Will, I am pretty right as yet, but as this is the land of Hell at present, I do not know how things will turn out later on."

Sadly, Ernest was killed in action trying to recapture the French village of Villers-Bretonneux on April 25, 1918.

Ernest is commemorated on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial in France.

James and Josiah are commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial in Belgium, although Josiah's body was never recovered.

Sadly, while the Allen family requested any and all information about Ernest's burial and belongings, the transport ship carrying his personal effects from England back to Australia was sunk by a German submarine.

All they received were two photographs of his grave and his service medals.

Another legacy of the Allen brothers lives on near Gin Gin - the wooden bunkhouse they once slept in at the back of the family homestead, which now forms part of the Kookaburra Park eco-village.

Topics:  anzac-centenary editors picks first world war



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