Dennis Austin Allen was born in Hellifield, North Yorkshire in the spring of 1893. His parents were Dennis Robert Allen and Eliza Allen (nee Austin). He was the eldest of the family and had three sisters. His twin sisters Diana Robina and Leah were born in Rochdale in 1895 and Alice was born in Wymondham in 1897. Dennis’ father was a domestic coachman and later a chauffeur. The family seems to have lived in many different places.
In the 1901 Census Dennis was living with his grandparents, Daniel and Leah Allen in Edgefield, Norfolk, whilst the rest of the family was living in Saxlingham Green. His sisters Leah and Diana started the village school in Saxlingham in October 1900. The school log book lists Dennis as being admitted to the school in 1901 having previously been at Melton Constable School.
Ten years later most of the family were still living in Saxlingham Green. Dennis was working as a domestic gardener. Alice and Leah were still living at home. Leah was working as a housemaid locally but Diana was working in East Somerton as a scullery maid. Dennis’ maternal grandfather David Austin and his aunt, Diana Austin, were also living with them.
At the beginning of the war according to Essex Regiment Museum’s records, Dennis volunteered to join Kitchener’s ‘New Army’ and originally joined the Norfolk Regiment. He then with many of 3rd Norfolk Regiment chose to transfer to the 1st Battalion, Essex Regiment. The Norfolk Regiment at that time had not suffered severe casualties which needed replacing, and so members of the regiment were asked to go where needed.
He died en route to Gallipoli when the ship, The Royal Edward, on which he was travelling, sank. The ship was sunk on 13 August 1915 when it was hit by a torpedo from a German submarine. Dennis was originally reported as missing but later presumed to have drowned. His body was never found and he is remembered on the Helles Memorial on the Gallipoli Peninsula, in Turkey. More details of this can be found on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s website.
The Royal Edward was the first British troopship to be sunk by the Germans. On board the ship were 31 officers, 1,335 troops going as reinforcements to the Dardanelles, members of the Royal Army Medical Corps and a ship’s crew of 220 officers and men. About 600 of those onboard were saved. There are numerous references to the tragedy, including lists of those who died and those who were saved, in the Eastern Daily Press from 18th August 1915 till 8th September 1915.