Ivanhoe Wilfred ALLEN 1919-1996 – Wife’s Father

Ivanhoe W Allen

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F – Ivanhoe Wilfred Allen was born on 30 Sep 1919 at Walcot, Bath, Somerset, to GF1 – Walter Thomas Allen (1877-1930) and GM1 – Elizabeth Amy Perry (1880-1967).

Walter Thomas Allen

Elizabeth Amy Perry

Being their tenth child, his parents were clearly struggling to come up with a name, the family lore says that his father had successfuuly backed a horse, at odds of 100-6, called Ivanhoe and thus decided to use that distinctive name for his youngest. It was usually shortened to ‘Ivan’.

Ivanhoe won the Cesarewith Autumn Classic a handicap race on the flat, run over 2 miles 2 furlongs t Newmarket. It is for horses three years old or older. The name ‘Cesarewitch’ is an anglicisation of Tsesarevich, the heir to the throne in Imperial Russia. Tsesarevich Alexander (who became Tsar Alexander II), had donated £300 to the Jockey Club and the event was established in 1839. Ivanhoe won its eightieth running – and Jane’s father was named!

Isaac J Cullin painting of The 1919 Cesarewitch

Ivanhoe and jockey A Whalley being led in

The full result

Ivan was twenty-one years younger than his eldest brother, William Charles Allen III but he had died in the trenches two years before Ivan’s birth. That still left him with five older brothers, between nine and seventeen years older than him, and three older sisters just two to six years old older.

He does sound mischevious, one famous family tale was that when Bath dignitaries were formally reopening Cleveland Bridge, Ivan darted across before any of the great and good. It had been a toll bridge for foot and horse traffic, built originally back in 1826. The picture below from 20 Jun 1929 shows the gathering marking the granting of the Marquess of Bath the Freedom of the City and declaring the refurbished bridge as toll-free – the picture did not capture Ivan making his preemptive crossing.

1929 ceremony at Cleveland Place

Cleveland Bridge, Bath today

The family suggests that all Ivan’s clothes, footwear and particularly sports gear were hand-me-downs, so perhaps being awarded the cap (below) first gave him something that was truly his own. He was fourteen years old and captain of Bath School’s Rugby Union team – a town that built itself a phenomenal rugby pedigree.

Ivan’s Bath Schools’ Rugby Union cap
dated inside as 1933-34 and as ‘Capt’

Another family tale is that Ivan was awarded a prize (presumably for rugby) by the playwright Arnold Ridley. I knew the name originally because he wrote The Ghost Train, in which I once played Peggy, the wife of the honeymoon couple, in my all-male school play. But he is much better known as Private Godfrey in TV’s Dad’s Army – the one always needing a loo!

Private Godfrey – Arnold Ridley

By 1935 Ivan was sixteen years old, with WWII on the horizon, he lived at 16 London Place (which no longer exists). His occupation was shown as a ‘Carpenter Improver’, Jane believed that his job was then fabricating coffins.

A 1939 Register shows Ivan still living at 16 London Place with his widowed mother Elizabeth A Allen, his much older brother Percy, his sister Margaret Tiley with her baby Charmian – and Herbert Perry, clearly a relative of Elizabeth’s.

On 5 Mar 1940 he was called up and joined the Royal Engineers, its 59th Field Company (Mechanical Equipment Platoon), His Army No was 2003667, he entered as a sapper and rose to the rank of Corporal. He was at times engaged in constructing and dismantling portable, pre-fabricated, Bailey Bridges. These were developed in 1940–1941 by the British for military use during the Second World War and saw extensive use by British, Canadian and American military engineering units. A Bailey bridge had the advantages of requiring no special tools or heavy equipment to assemble. The wood and steel bridge elements were small and light enough to be carried in trucks and lifted into place by hand, without the use of a crane and yet the bridges were strong enough to carry tanks.

Bailey Bridge

[ASIDE: Donald Bailey was a civil servant in the British War Office who tinkered with model bridges as a hobby. He had proposed an early prototype for a Bailey bridge before the war in 1936, but his idea was not taken up. Bailey drew an original proposal for the bridge on the back of an envelope in 1940. On 14 February 1941, the Ministry of Supply requested that Bailey have a full-scale prototype completed by 1 May at Christchurch, Dorset.]

On the 5 Sep 1942 Ivan married Violet Evelyn Eileen Stiles In Bristol.

Ivan served in Greece and in Italy, and his unit, as part of the 5th Division, was present at the notable battles at Monte Cassino (aka the Battle for Rome), which across four assaults (Jan-May 1944) made of the hilltop abbey, resulted in 55,000 Allied casualties, with German losses estimated at around 20,000 killed and wounded. See later that 1C1R – Francis Ralph Allen (1910-1944) – was lost aboard HMS Janus, off Anzio in the battle for Rome.

Monte Cassino ruins

On 1 Jul 1946 his demob certitifcate shows his military conduct to have been exemplary.

“Allen has been a most satisfactory NCO (Corporal). He is most reliable and organises and controls his men well. He is hard working and a sound and capable tradesman. He is smart and has a pleasant manner.”

On 11 Dec 1948 Violet and Ivan had their only child, Jane Alison Allen.

Back in civvies Ivan joined the British Aircraft Corporation at Filton, on the outskirts of Bristol. He was a carpenter, for many years his main role was fabricating special packing cases for parts for the supersonic aircraft Concord, as they went back and forth between Bristol and Toulouse – rather more slowly!

Ivan had been a boxer and he kept up his rugby playing into his 50s.

There is an amusing episode that I feel I must add. Ivan’s eldest sister was Dorothy Gertrude Mary Allen, who had become at odds with the family over marrying a divorcee. Despite living along the road from her mother, and despite her children often coming around to ‘borrow’ items, Ivan had last met with her when he was in uniform and going off to WWII.

Sometime in the 1990s Vi and Ivan were holidaying in the Balearics and were waiting at the lift in their hotel to descend to the lobby. They got talking to another couple and realised that they were from Bath too. They establishd that this was Dorothy, the sister he had not spoken with for fifty years. I asked had he taken her contact details to meet up again when back in England. Ivan seemed surprised that I would think he might have done so, family rifts do run deep!

Vi and Ivan went for a Christmas shopping coach trip to Eastbourne on 25 Nov 1996. They had a nice day, a nice meal and were dancing, after dinner, when Ivan collapsed and never recovered. A great way to go for him, but an horrendous one for Vi. We were summoned to drive her home and help to make the funeral arrangements. Thanks to his membership of the Royal British Legion his funeral had a good turn out, with legion medals and flags on display at the church and the reception.

Forward to M – Violet E E Stiles
Go to Allen Family Tree – Forward to GF – Walter T Allen – Forward to GGF1 – William C Allen
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