Born at Bradfield, Berkshire, on the 14th of February 1826, the son of Henry and Martha Allen. He was baptised there on the 4th of January 1827.
[PB: Bradfield is close to Englefield, about 6 miles west of Reading. According to some Ancestry.com family trees, both his parents were born in Berkshire — his father in Bradfield, his mother (nee Carter Dobson), in Beenham (a mile or two south of Bradfield and west of Sulhamstead). JA had at least seven siblings, of which he was the penultimate: Edward, b.1806, William, b.1810, Thomas b.1815, Elizabeth b.1817, Joseph, b.1820, Richard, b.1823, and Charles, b.1828. This information has not been checked.
In 1851, JA's parents were living in Sulhampstead Bannister, Berkshire, a couple of miles from Bradfield. Henry is described as an Agricultural Labourer, as is their eldest son Edward, who appears to be living with his family either in the same house, or next door. Henry and Martha, both 75, were still in Sulhampstead in 1861. A "Martha Allen" died in Bradfield in 1861.
Incidentally, if the family trees are correct, the parents and at least the majority of the children lived quite long lives (into their later 70s and eighties). This is consistent with Marx and Engels's claim that Army recruits who joined before the Crimean War tended to come from rural backgrounds, and were generally healthier than those joining during the war, who often came from the urban poor.]
Enlisted: London, on the 2nd of November 1843.
Age: 17 years 8 months.
Height: 5' 8".
Features: Fresh complexion. Grey eyes. Brown hair.
[PB: WO97, accessed via findmypast.co.uk, states he was attested 2.11.1843, aged 18 years 9 months. In March and May 2015, the image link was faulty, so the document was not available to check.]
Piershill Barracks, Leith.
John Allen, 27, Private Soldier, born Reading.
Note: It is presumed he was still unmarried at this time as other wives & children are named. There is another John Allen but not born in Reading.
[PB: In May 2015 it came to light that John Allen was probably married twice, first around 1851 to Catharine nee Morrison, by whom he had at least one child, Martha, born c. 1852. The couple probably met when he was in Piershill Barracks at Leith. See Further Information below for more on this marriage.]
From Private to Corporal: 1st of October 1854.
His horse was killed under him at Balaclava.
Corporal to Sergeant: 6th of August 1855.
Served at Eupatoria.
In January 1859 John Allen married Harriet(t) Littleton in Dublin, Ireland. Presumably Catharine Allen had died in the mid-1850s.
Harriet Littleton, John Allen's second wife, was born (according to several Census entries) about 1830 in Edgmont [also recorded as Edgmond], Shropshire, and was working as a servant in London in 1851.
13 [and 11?], Hyde Park Square, Paddington, Middlesex.
Harriett Allen [future wife], 21, born Edgemont, Salop, was one of eight servants in the home of Wilson Hetherington, 45, Barrister, and his wife, 41, and six children, aged 1 — 13 years.
John Allen and Harriet Littleton married 11 January 1859 in St James, Dublin, Ireland (Ancestry.com: Ireland, Select Marriages, 1619-1898.)
Five children are known:
Henry, born 1861, Edgmont, Shropshire.
Alice, c.1866, Norwich, Norfolk.
Mary E[lizabeth], c.1868, Toronto, Canada.
Annie, c.1870, Leek, Staffs.
Minnie, c.1874, Leek, Staffs.
Edgmond Village, Shropshire.
Benjamin Littleton, 55, Blacksmith, born Sambrook, Shropshire.
Harriett Littleton, 56, Wife, b. Wellington, Shropshire.
Harriet[t?] Allen [wife], 31, Daughter, Soldier's Wife, b. Edgmond, Shropshire.
Henry Allen [son], 1 month, Grandson, b. Edgmond, Shropshire.
Note: John Allen's father was also named Henry. It seems likely that Henry died young since he has not been found in records after 1861.
Appointed to Troop Sergeant-Major on the 7th of February 1862.
The Canterbury Depot muster rolls show that "No ration payments were made for the time spent on board ship as he was permitted to find his own passage to England to enable him to take up a position in the Yeomanry."
[PB: Dates in Canada, presumably 1866-8. The "time spent on board ship", for which there is no date in EJB's notes, may have been 1868, just before discharge, when returning to England with his family.]
Discharged from Canterbury on the 18th of June 1868: "Free, at own request, after 24 years service."
In Turkey and the Crimea: 2 years.
In Canada: 1 year 7 months.
Conduct: "very good". Would have had five Good Conduct badges if not promoted.
Twice entered in the Regimental Defaulters book. Never tried by Court-martial.
He was in receipt of an allowance of 1d. per day for "good swordsmanship" during his service.
Granted a pension of 2/- per day but this was increased to 28d. per day "on ceasing to be on the Permanent Staff of the Staffordshire Yeomanry", 21st of August 1883.
Entitled to the Crimean medal with clasps for Alma, Balaclava, Inkerman, and Sebastopol, and the Turkish medal.
His documents confirm the award of the Crimean medal with four clasps, Turkish Medal, D.C.M., with an annuity of £10 and the Long Service & Good Conduct medal.
Awarded the a href="http://chargeofthelightbrigade.com/furtherinfo/distinguishedconductmedal/distinguishedconductmedal.html" target="_blank">Distinguished Conduct Medal, but it is not known just when or under what circumstances this was awarded. [PB: Though see his obituaries, below.]
Awarded the Long Service & Good Conduct medal on the 20th of October 1865 when the regiment was at Norwich, with a Private's gratuity of £5.
Although it is said that a Crimean medal and other items formerly belonging to John Allen are in the Nicholson Museum at Leek, an enquiry of the present Council authorities in 1991 brought no response. Following further letters on the subject a reply was eventually received to the effect that "the only item held relating to Sergeant-Major Allen was a funeral card dated the 2nd August 1894 and that the Authority was unaware of any medals belonging to him."
Attended the first Balaclava Banquet in 1875.
Member of the Balaclava Commemoration Society in 1879.
Signed the Loyal Address to the Queen in 1887.
Attended the Annual Dinner in 1892.
49, Rose Bank Street, Tittesworth, Staffordshire.
John Allen, 45, Drill Instructor to Yeomanry, born Bradfield, Berkshire.
Harriet Allen, 41, Dressmaker, b. Edgmont, Shropshire.
Alice Allen, 5, Scholar, b. Norwich, Norfolk.
Mary E[lizabeth] Allen, 3, b. Toronto, Canada.
Annie Allen, 6 months, b. Leek, Staffordshire.
Another daughter, Minnie, was born in 1874.
He served for 9 years 307 days in the Staffordshire Yeomanry, retiring on the 31st of October 1883.
In 1881 he was the landlord of the Queen's Arms, Osborne Street, Leek. He was living with his wife, Harriet, and three daughters, aged from 17 to 7 years.
Queen's Arms Public House, 17 Osborne Street, Leek.
John Allen, 55, Innkeeper (Queen's Arms), born Bradfield, Berkshire.
Harriet Allen, 51, b. Edgmond, Salop.
Alice Allen, 15, Scholar, b. Norwich Norfolk.
Mary E. Allen, 13, Scholar, b. Toronto, Canada.
Minnie Allen, 7, Scholar, b. Leek, Staffordshire.
[PB: According to the pub's website, www.bluemugge.co.uk, The Queen's Head was renamed The Blue Mugge in 1979 (accessed 15.3.2015).]
From 1887 until his death in 1894, John Allen was the landlord of the Swan Hotel in Edward Street, Leek.
Swan Hotel, 2, Edward Street, Leek, Staffordshire.
John Allen, 65, Licensed Victualler [added note "Pub"], born Bradfield, Berkshire.
Harriet Allen, 61, Wife, b. Egmond, Shropshire.
Alice Allen, 25, Daughter, Milliner [added note "Dress"], b. Norwich, Norfolk.
Minnie Allen, 17, Daughter, b. Leek, Staffordshire.
Elizabeth Chadwick, 23, General Servant Domestic, b. Ashbourne, Derbyshire.
[PB: The Swan Hotel was renamed The Green Dragon in 2013. See e.g. www.leek-news.co.uk/New-Swan-returns-roots/story-20131831-detail/story.html, which mentions John Allen as landlord (accessed 15.3.2015)].
Died at Leek, Staffordshire, on the 30th of July 1894, and is buried in the cemetery there.
John Allen, aged 68 years, September Quarter 1894, Leek.
In his will he left his personal estate of £502 to his wife, Harriet.
See the copy of his obituary notice taken from the Leek Times, 3rd of August 1894, in the 13th Hussar file. From this report comes an account of how he is said to have won the D.C.M.
After his horse had been shot and he himself wounded in the knee [EJB: he is not shown as such in any of the official casualty lists] he was endeavouring to make his way back when he found a fellow trooper engaged in rescuing a wounded officer. He stopped to help and between them they managed to mount the officer on a riderless horse that was fortunately at hand. For this act, Corporal Allen received the much-prized medal for "Distinguished Conduct in the Field", his comrade in bravery receiving the Victoria Cross. [EJB: It is not stated who the V.C. winner was.]
Extract from a newspaper [unknown source]:
February 14th sees the anniversary of the birth of a Sergeant-Major who won the D.C.M. at the battle of Balaclava, and later moved to Leek to be licensee of the "Swan Hotel".
Sergeant-Major John Allen was born at Englefield, near Reading, Berkshire, on the 14th of February 1828 [sic].
From boyhood he had a strong inclination for the Army and when 17 years of age he enlisted into the 13th Light Dragoons (later renamed Hussars) and remained in the same regiment until he claimed his discharge in Canada in 1868. During this long service he was stationed in barracks in nearly every major city in England, Scotland and Ireland, but it was not until 1854 that his career reached its peak.
Crimean campaign — His regiment was one of the first to be ordered out to the Crimea, and he took part in all the great battles of that campaign, including the most famous of them all — the 'Charge of the Light Brigade'.
He was Corporal Allen then, and was in the front rank of the famous charge and consequently in the centre of the frightful carnage which followed.
As he neared the Russian batteries at the end of the 'Valley of Death' his horse was shot and he himself received a bullet wound in the leg.
On foot, he turned to go back to the British lines and came across a fellow trooper, Joseph Malone [sic], trying to rescue a wounded officer. Corporal Allen stopped to help and between them they managed to get the officer on a riderless horse which they had caught and on it took him back to their own lines.
For that gallantry he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct medal and the trooper he had stopped to help received the Victoria Cross. He had entered this battle as a Corporal and left it as Sergeant, having been promoted on the field of battle. [Not true — EJB.]
He rarely ever talked about this battle, or the others in which he took part, confining his remarks to "having been one of the lucky ones." But he was the proud possessor of four medals — that for the Crimean War with Alma, Balaclava, Inkerman and Sebastopol bars bearing the 1854 date; the Turkish War Medal 1855; the D.C.M., and one for Long Service and Good Conduct.
The abortive Fenian raid upon Canada in 1866 took the 13th Light Dragoons to that country, serving at Montreal and Toronto, and where Sergeant-Major Allen experienced the rigours of a bitter Canadian white winter.
While at Toronto his term of service expired and in April of 1868, immediately after his return to this country, he took his discharge and took up residence at Leek, where his long and distinguished service and high character had earned him the post of Troop Sergeant-Major to the Leek and Biddulph Queen's Own Yeomanry.
Cricket Club Captain — He served the Leek and Biddulph Troop for nearly twenty years, and in Leek was also captain of the Church Cricket Club.
For the last seven years of his life he was licensee of the "Swan Hotel", where he died on the 30th of July 1894, aged 68. His funeral had full military honours, the route from the "Swan" being thickly lined with people and a firing-party of nearly twenty soldiers fired three rounds over his grave."
The report of his death published in the Leek Times, 5th of August 1894, commented:
"Although his portly figure and fine military presence will be seen no more amongst us, his gallant and blameless life will keep his memory ever-green...Sergeant-Major Allen's medals were kindly donated to the Nicholson Museum by Miss M. Moreton of Leeds, who inherited them [sic] and his tomb in Leek Cemetery is kept in good condition by well-wishers."
The reference to 1440 Joseph Malone, also of the 13th Light Dragoon, who was awarded the Victoria Cross, and of John Allen stopping to help him, bears a great similarity to the part played by James Lamb, 13th Light Dragoons, in the rescue of Captain Webb of the 17th Lancers.
The memorial stone to him in Leek Cemetery is inscribed:
"To the memory of a brave soldier, Sergeant-Major John Allen, who rode in the ranks of the 13th Light Dragoons at the charge of Balaclava, October 25th 1854. He died at Leek, July 30th 1894, aged 68 years. Erected to his memory by a few of the townsmen and past and present officers and men of the Leek Troop of the Staffs. 'Queen's Own' Royal Yeomanry of which he was for many years Sergeant-Major."
On the side of the pillar:
"In loving memory of Harriet, widow of the late Sergeant-Major John Allen, who died March 16th 1896, aged 66 years."
A number of items relating to John Allen, 13th Light Dragoons, came up for auction in 2013. These included a "vellum Army discharge certificate, Chelsea Hospital Pension certificate, Cabinet Photographs of Himself and his Wife, Memoriam Cards for him and his wife, Funeral Programme and a 1896 sepia photograph of the Swan Hotel in Leek where you can see clearly Harriet Allen's name on the Sign."
[PB: In 2015, I came across the following on my computer, which obviously relates to the above.]
490a. Very Important Military Document to a Charge of the Light Brigade Charger:
Lot consists of Vellum Army discharge certificate, Chelsea Hospital Pension certificate, Cabinet Photographs of Himself and his Wife, Memoriam Cards for him and his wife, Funeral Programme and a 1896 sepia photograph of the Swan Hotel in Leek where you can see clearly Harriet Allen's name on the Sign. Comes with some copy paperwork (note: John Allen's Medals Sold at Auction 31st March 2010 for £18,000) 1199 Corporal John Allen 13th Light Dragoons.
Was one of the few who received the Distinguished Conduct Medal for heroism during the disastrous attack. His horse was shot from beneath him as he sped into the "valley of death" at Balaclava during the Crimean War in 1854. Allen was at the front of the attack and took a bullet in the knee in the thick of the carnage after his horse was shot dead beneath him.
As he made his way back to British lines he found fellow trooper Joseph Malone trying to rescue a wounded officer. They caught a rider-less horse and put the officer on it and managed to get the casualty back to safety. Malone won the Victoria Cross.
Allen signed up as a soldier at 16 and was discharged in 1868 after 24 years' service. He died aged 68. Of the 600-plus men who took part there were 278 casualties — and 335 horses were killed. "Post-military career, he was landlord of the Swan Hotel in Leek, Staffordshire, from 1887 until his death there in July 1894.
In May 2015 the EJBA was contacted by Craig Smith, seeking further information about John Allen, a possible relative. Very helpfully, he sent an image of a marriage registration dated 30 October 1877 for Martha Allen, aged 25, daughter of "John Allen, Sergeant Major 13th Light Hussars". (Note that John Allen's mother was also named Martha.)
The text reads:
Married 30 October 1877 at 23, York Place, Aberdeen, after Banns, according to the Forms of the Established Church of Scotland.
Martha Allen, 25, Envelope Maker (Spinster), 12 Yeats Lane, Aberdeen.
Parents: John Allen, Sergeant Major 13th Light Hussars, Catharine Allen, Maiden Surname Morrison (deceased).
Alexander Craig, 28, Rope and Sailmaker, Journeyman, Bachelor, 12 St Clement Street, Aberdeen.
Parents: George Craig, Stoker on Steam N [?] and Christine Craig, Maiden Surname Ritchie.
The witnesses were: George Gordon and Mary Ritchie.
This would imply that John Allen had been married before Harriet to Catharine nee Morrison and had at least one child, Martha, born c. 1852. No other information is available at this time but "Morrison" is a Scottish name, and John Allen was at Leith Barracks in 1851. [When did the regiment leave Leith?] It seems likely that this is where they met. Martha stated that she was born in England but it is possible she returned to live with her mother's family in Scotland at some time.
14, St Clement Street, Aberdeen.
Alex Craig, 32, Rope & Sail Maker, born Aberdeen.
Martha Craig [JA's daughter], 28, born England.
Christina A Craig, 2, born Aberdeen.
Margaret Craig, 11 months, born Aberdeen.
Christina Craig, 65, Engineers wife, born Longside, Aberdeen.
14, St Clement Street, Aberdeen.
Christina Craig [mother-in-law], 76, Millworker, born Skene, Aberdeen.
In June 2015 PB wrote a blog on John Allen, with reference to new information about his first wife, and the situation in Canada which caused him to be sent to Canada 1866-8:
Received 19.2.2019, from Jim Bromfield:
Regarding an entry on your Charge of the Light Brigade website, specifically relating to Sgt Maj Allen of Leek, a distant relative of mine.
[This site] shows a picture of the Swan Hotel, which Sgt Maj Allen was landlord of from 1887-1894.
The picture is incorrect, and actually shows the Swan Inn, of Town End, Cheadle, Staffordshire, ST10 1PF.
The Swan Hotel, at 2 St Edward Street, Leek, ST13 5DS, changed name to The Green Dragon in 2013 when it became a Wetherspoons pub, and undoubtedly saved the pub from closure. The pub was known as The Green Dragon in the past, and by 1783 was called The Swan Hotel.
JD Wetherspoon: Pub history.
The Wetherspoon page includes the line:
Of all the licensees of The Green Dragon the most famous was Sgt. Major John Allen who rode in the ranks of the 13th Light Dragoons at the Charge of Balaclava on 25 October 1854 and who was landlord from 1887 until his death in 1894.
Jim Bromfield (20.2.2019):
My great aunts used to talk about Sgt Maj Allen, who they explained was related, and they had some items belonging to him. They were from Edgmond, Shropshire. Gladys, Dorothy and Cathleen Latham, whose Grandmother was Mary Littleton, and Mary's elder sister was Harriet Littleton, John Allen's second wife
My father, Michael Bromfield, remembers visiting as a child, and played with a bayonet, which he was told was a Russian bayonet brought back from the Crimean War by John Allen. They had a few other items too, I don't know exactly what, but nobody knows what happened to them.
My great aunts as children used to stay with their relatives in Leek.
Regarding John Allen's medals.
We understand they were given to the Nicholson Institute in Leek shortly after he died, and it is public record that they have come up for auction several times over the years.
I noticed they last sold in 2010 for a considerable sum. I understand they have always been in private collections, so I would love to see them in a collection with public access.
In fact I'd just love to see them.
I've attached a picture, which shows Sgt Maj Allen in his later years in Leek.
The photo came from either Edith Howarth (nee Barlow), or Jessie Littleton Vinen (nee Barlow).
And also a copy taken from The Leek Post and Times from 1968 regarding work done to the memorial in Leek Cemetery.
"One generation's contributions to life are usually overshadowed by those of the next and succeeding generations and events which mattered at the time, become lost in the passage of time — and people.
For instance — the epic "Charge of the Light Brigade" at the Crimean Battle of Balaclava, in 1854. Oh yes, every schoolboy and girl has heard of it, knows part of the famous poem about it; there's recently been a film made depicting the heroic charge; but almost forgotten is the fact that one of the men who rode "into the Valley of Death" is buried in Leek Cemetery, with a handsome monument at the head of the grave."
Information about the 2013 auction kindly provided by Chris Poole, who attended. Thanks are also due to him for supplying details about JA in the 1851 Census, about JA's daughter Martha in the 1881 Census, her mother-in-law in the 1891 Census, and the registration of JA's death.
We are very grateful to Craig Smith, who contacted the EJBA in May 2015, for supplying information that implied John Allen had been married twice, and had a daughter from his first marriage, Martha Allen. This has stimulated considerable further research.
Many thanks are due to Jim Bromfield, who contacted the EJBA in February 2019 with a correction about the pub JA ran in Leek, for photographs, and for family reminiscences. It would be good to know the whereabouts of JA's medals.