ROBERT John Allen was the youngest son of Albert and Sophia Allen, of Chapel Street in Downley. He had three brothers all of whom survived the war.

Robert was amongst the first to enlist from the village, in August 1914, and served with the Coldstream Guards, being posted to join the British Expeditionary Force in France on November 26th 1914.

Just before Christmas 1914 he was severely wounded at the Front and sent to Netley Military Hospital near Southampton for treatment. This was a very large military hospital, which when it was built in the late 1850s had the world’s longest building.

It was nearly 1,500 ft long, three storeys high, and could accommodate 1,000 patients. During the Great War this was more than doubled to 2,500 beds by building a large Red Cross hospital in the adjacent fields. Some 50,000 patients were treated at Netley during the war.

Whilst lying in No.21 Ward to recover from his wounds at Netley Robert penned a letter which was printed in the Bucks Free Press under the heading ‘’A Soldier’s Story.’’

This was basically a poem which described in graphic detail his experience at the Front: 


Hello Tommy how are you,

Where have you been of late,

It’s such a long time I saw you,

I’d quite forgotten you, mate.


What have you with yourself Tom ?,

You don’t look the same as you did,

Your features they haven’t half altered,

I hardly knew you, Kid.


You say you’ve been to the Front, boy,

What have you done out there ?,

Why, fight for my King and Country,

And you should be doing your share.


Well it’s just nine months ago, Sir,

Since I donned this uniform,

I joined the Coldstream Guards, Sir,

It’s better than work on the farm.


It was the 21st day of December,

I shall never forget that day,

There was us, the Black Watch,

and the Cameroons,

We were right in the thick of the fray.


The Germans were there in thousands,

We’d been at it day and night,

And when daylight dawned upon us,

Aye, friend, t’was an awful sight.


And as we lay in the trenches,

We were all wet through to the skin,

Not troubling about the enemy,

But thinking of home and kin.


You ask me what this mark is,

Well, I’d been there only a week,

I was taking a snap at the enemy,

And was shot right through the cheek !


They brought me home to Netley,

And put me in Hospital there,

T’was the British Red Cross Society,

I’ve to thank for their trouble and care.


They put me in bed and washed me,

They dressed my wound so neat,

They gave everything I wanted,

And the Sisters – they are a treat.


I think I have told you all, Sir,

And if you’d like to do the same,

Just enlist in our gallant Army,

And uphold your Country’s name.


Although Robert seems to have recovered from this wound he was discharged from the Coldstream Guards on December 13st 1915. But that was not the end of his war service. He then re-enlisted and served in the Mechanical Transport Company of the Army Service Corps. T

he ASC were the unsung heroes of the British Army, their task being to ensure that the army continued to be supplied with everything from food to medical items. Being unfit for front-line service, Robert served with the Light Car Testing Staff.

He was again wounded and discharged. But not satisfied that he had ‘done his bit’ Robert then joined the French Army and served as an ambulance driver !

Whilst with the ASC MT Robert had met the sister of a fellow soldier and on the 5th of May 1918 he married Miss Ethel Mansfield at the Church of the Good Shepherd in south east London. The couple had one daughter Freda Ethel who was born in 1922.

A truly remarkable soldier.