William Alexander Allen

"This officer was only with us a short time, but he showed great promise. His death is greatly regretted.”

William Alexander Allen was well liked for the short time that he served as lieutenant in the 58th Canadian Infantry Battalion. “This officer only with us a short time, but he showed great promise. His death is greatly regretted,” states an entry in the 58th Battalion diary on April 18, 1917 — the day that Allen was killed on his way to his billet by an artillery shell in Villers-Au-Bois, a small village in France near the Belgium border.

Just days before Allen died he had fought in the Battle of Vimy Ridge, which raged from April 9 to 12, 1917 and came at a high cost — there were more than ten thousand Canadian casualties.

After the battle, the troops in the 58th Battalion were ordered to guard trenches that had been captured from the enemy. In some cases, they had to ward off counterattacks. “Battn. is being relieved tonight by 1st C.M.R. The men have now done nine days duty in the trenches and are in no condition to carry on,” Allen wrote in his diary the day before he died.

Allen enlisted in Valcartier on September 23, 1914, and served as a corporal in the 9th Battalion. He likely received a field promotion to lieutenant.

Just twenty-four-years-old when he died, Allen was well liked by everyone who met him, said his great-nephew, Allan Anderson. “Everybody liked him but he wasn’t the outgoing, bubbly kind of person,” said Anderson, adding that Allen’s family affectionately called him Will or Willy. Allen, who often introduced himself as Bill, grew up on a farm in Kincardine, Ontario with two brothers and two sisters.

He’s buried at Ecoivres Military Cemetery in Pas de Calais, France.

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