(Nick Named – Bull) because he was as strong as Bull with a heart to match
Born in Ballarat East, his early years were difficult. After he was abandoned by his parents at the age of 12, he began working as a farm labourer. By the time he enlisted in the army in 1940, the 23-year-old was a tall and powerfully built man who earned the nickname “Bull” for charging through the opposition on the football field. Personally brave, Allen struggled with authority.
Australian and American soldiers rarely served together in the front line in the war against Japan in World War 2. Buna in late 1942 is a notable exception. Another, and less known, instance took place on Mount Tambu in the mountains above Salamaua (Papua New Guinea) in mid-1943.
In 1943, Allen was awarded a Military Medal for recovering Australian wounded under fire near Wau in February. Five months later, on 30 July, he again repeatedly risked his own life when rescuing at least 12 wounded American soldiers during fighting on Mount Tambu.
Yet Allen was also a man badly affected by his war service. In the Middle East in 1941, he had been hospitalised with “anxiety neurosis” and when he returned to Australia from New Guinea his behaviour became increasing erratic. In February 1944, he struck an officer and was demoted. In September, Allen was discharged from the army suffering “constitutional temperamental instability”, “anxiety symptoms”, and malaria.
So traumatised was this veteran of the Libyan, Syrian and Salamaua campaigns, that Allen retreated to an uncle’s farm and lost the power of speech for a time. In early 1945, he was awarded the United States Silver Star Medal for his services to the Allied cause. Among the many people who expressed their congratulations was Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1949, Allen married Jean Floyd, who had been a nurse during the war.