1885 - 1916
CPL David Wallace Crawford
1887 - 1916
Lce-Corpl John Joseph Nickle
1894 - 1916
Pte 17911 Morton Neill
1897 - 1916
Lieut Edward Stanley Ashcroft
1883 - 1918
L/Cpl 17776 Gordon Whittingham Allan
- Age: 27
- From: Prenton
- Regiment: The King's (Liverpool Regiment) 19th Btn
- K.I.A Sunday 30th July 1916
- Commemorated at: Thiepval Memorial
Panel Ref: P&F1D8B &8 C.
Gordon Whittingham Allan. L/Cpl no 17776, No 3 Coy 19th Battalion, The King’s (Liverpool) Regiment
Gordon was the son of Thomas Henry Allan and his second wife Jane nee Whittingham. He was born in Prenton in 1888 and educated at Claughton Higher Grade School before working for The Universal Shipping and Forwarding Company in Liverpool. He was a keen footballer, supporting Tranmere Rovers and was a member of the YMCA Football Club. On 5th September 1914 he was one of the early volunteers for the 1st City Battalion along with his half-brother, also Thomas Henry (Harry) Allan, who transferred to the Manchester Regiment on 11th September and served in India.
Gordon was sent for training at Sefton Park before moving into specially built accommodation at Knowsley. He left Liverpool in April 1915 for further training at Belton Park in Grantham, then onto Salisbury Plain before leaving for the front in November 1915. Before leaving he became engaged to Bess and they had a photograph taken and turned into a postcard which Gordon sent to his parents, with these words pencilled on the back;
“Had this taken when Bess was here. What do you think of it. Most people think it is pretty rotten. Still keeping very fit, how are you both getting on? Love to both Gordon”
I still have it. My uncle, his nephew, remembered, as a very little boy, being taken for a ride on his motorbike and being very upset when Gordon left, not because he knew where or why he was going but because there would be no more rides for a time.
We believe, though have not had this confirmed, that Gordon was involved in a Bombing Section of 14 men against the enemy position at Guillemont on 30th July. This was led by Sergeant Albert John Edwards, the only survivor of the action, who was awarded the Medal for Distinguished Conduct in the Field. We know he was reported killed in action at Guillemont on 30th July 1916 aged 27 and this was reported in the local paper, along with a photograph.
"Mr.and Mrs.T.H.Allan, Moss Grove, Prenton,have recently received the offical communication of the death in action on July 30th of their youngest son, Lance-Corpl.Gordon Whittingham Allan, of the King's Liverpool Regiment. The young soldier, who was 27 years of age, was just on the eve of receiving his commission. Lance-Corpl.Allan joined his regiment at the beginning of the war, and had been at the front since last November. In pre-war days he was with the Universal Shipping and Forwarding Co., Fenwick-street, Liverpool. He was a keen member of the Y.M.C.A. Football Club,where he made many friends. He is an old boy of the Claughton Higher Grade School. Every sympathy is extended to Mr.and Mrs.Allan in their sad loss." (Birkenhead News 2/9/16)
Gordon’s parents were so distraught at the loss of their beloved son that for a long time family members avoided talking about him in order to save them further distress. This was probably the case in many thousands of homes across the country.
Gordon’s name is on the war memorial opposite St Stephen’s Church, Prenton and the one in Hamilton Square. It is also on the memorial at Thiepval, which I visited in 2003, the first family member to do so. Though I had the location of the names of his regiment, I was somewhat daunted by the size and height of the memorial, realising that his name may be some sixty feet above my head. It was however, at almost exactly my eye level and the impact was astonishing. By that time on my trip, I’d seen many thousands of white crosses and the 54,000 names at the Menin Gate, but to see the name of someone to whom I was related, even though I’d never met him and indeed had only been born some 34 years after his death, had a very powerful effect.
Since then, Gordon’s great, great, great niece and nephew have seen his name on the memorial during school trips and most recently, my brother, Philip, who has Gordon as one of his names, was there.
Gordon’s parents also had his name inscribed on the family headstone in Woodchurch churchyard, where on 30th July, 2016, my sister, niece and I placed one of the poppies from the Tower of London.
Thanks go to Gordon's Great Niece Joy Allan for the biography of Gordon and for permission to use the photograph.
The battallion diary illustrates the difficulties faced by Gordon and his Pals:
19th Battalion Diary 30th July 1916
MALTZ HORN FARM
BATTLE begun. ZERO hour 4:45 am. The Battalion reached its objective, but suffered heavy losses, and had to evacuate its position owing to no reinforcements.
Everard Wyrall gives details of the attack in his book The History of The King’s Regiment;
"The 2nd Attack on Guillemont- 29th July 1916 the 89th Brigade the 20th King's were to attack on the right and the 19th on the left. During the evening of the 29th the night was dark and foggy when the Battalions moved off and the 19th with Lt Col G Rollo commanding, when passing the South east of the Briqueterie they were heavily shelled first with H E and then with a new kind of asphyxiating Gas shell which had curious results, at first it had no nasty effect but about 8 hrs later men began to fall sick with violent headaches and pains in the stomach. All ranks had to wear gas masks which in the darkness and mist made the going terribly difficult. It was indeed wonderful that they were able to reach their Assembly point at all. But they did and by 2.45 a.m. on the 30th July 1916 the Btn was assembled having suffered about 30 Casualties on the way up ready for the Zero hour at 4.45 a.m.
It is known that the two left Companies of the 19th under Capt. Dodd and Capt. Nicholson advanced in touch with the 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers on their left although they suffered many casualties from Machine gun Fire did not encounter many Germans and reached their final objective about the time allocated, beginning at once to dig in south of the orchard on the South east corner of Guillemont.
On the left of the 19th the Scots Fusiliers most gallantly forced their way through Guillemont to the eastern side of the village but were soon overwhelmed by the enemy and few returned.
At 8 a.m. finding that the village was not held the two left Companies of the 19th received no word from the rear or either flank believed themselves to be totally isolated so were forced to fall back and dig in, their position being untenable.
At midday the effective fighting strength of the 19th Btn was just 7 Officers and 43 other ranks"
When darkness fell on the battlefield the 30th Division held a line from the railway on the eastern side of Trones Wood , southwards and including Arrow Head Copse, to east of Maltz Horn Farm. On this line the division was relieved by the 55th Division during the early hours of the 31st July.
Casualties in the 19th Battalion were 11 Officers and 435 Other Ranks
The events of 30th July 1916 were regarded at the time as Liverpool’s blackest day. There follows an extract from The History of the 89th Brigade written by Brigadier General Ferdinand Stanley which gives an indication of the events of the day.
Well the hour to advance came, and of all bad luck in the world it was a thick fog; so thick that you couldn’t see more than about ten yards. It was next to impossible to delay the attack – it was much too big an operation- so forward they had to go. It will give some idea when I say that on one flank we had to go 1,750 yards over big rolling country. Everyone knows what it is like to cross enclosed country which you know really well in a fog and how easy it is to lose your way. Therefore, imagine these rolling hills, with no landmarks and absolutely unknown to anyone. Is it surprising that people lost their way and lost touch with those next to them? As a matter of fact, it was wonderful the way in which many men found their way right to the place we wanted to get to. But as a connected attack it was impossible.
The fog was intense it was practically impossible to keep direction and parties got split up. Owing to the heavy shelling all the Bosches had left their main trenches and were lying out in the open with snipers and machine guns in shell holes, so of course our fellows were the most easy prey.
It is so awfully sad now going about and finding so many splendid fellows gone.