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Leslie Charles (Clarence) Allen (1916–1982)

by John Moremon

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Leslie Charles (Clarence) Allen (1916-1982), soldier, labourer and historical-artefact demonstrator, was born on 9 November 1916 at Ballarat East, Victoria, second son of Clarance Walter Allen, labourer, and his wife Ruby Ethel, née Robertson, both Victorian born. His early childhood was marred by domestic violence until he and his sister were abandoned and raised in an orphanage. At about 12 he started working, mostly as a farm labourer. On 19 April 1940 he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force, giving his middle name as Clarence and his date of birth as 9 September 1918.

In September 1940 Allen embarked for the Middle East with reinforcements for the 2/5th Battalion. He was allotted to `D’ Company as a stretcher-bearer. Five ft 11 ins (180 cm) tall, with green eyes and black hair, he was physically imposing and strong. A keen sportsman with a wicked sense of humour, he was popular with all except perhaps officers, towards whom he displayed a certain disdain for authority. He acquired his nickname `Bull’ for charging through the opposition while playing Australian Rules football with the battalion.

Allen proved dependable during the Libyan campaign in January-February 1941, but was admitted to hospital with `anxiety neurosis’ in early April. Rejoining the battalion before the Syrian campaign, he came to notice on 10-11 July near Khalde when, under heavy shell-fire, he attended to casualties all night, and next morning, although fatigued, walked 6 miles (10 km) to get transport.

The 2/5th left the Middle East in March 1942, served in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) before returning to Australia in August, and sailed to Papua in October. Allen contracted malaria but was fit for the defence of Wau, New Guinea, in January-February 1943. On mountain tracks his strength, stamina, devotion to comrades and bravery were invaluable. He was awarded the Military Medal for rescuing wounded men under fire in the Crystal Creek area on 7-8 February. The citation noted that `Private Allen’s bearing and his untiring efforts in tending the wounded and helping with rations and stores were an inspiration’. Promoted to acting corporal in April (confirmed August), he received the United States’ Silver Star for rescuing American casualties under heavy fire at Mount Tambu on 30 July. Although slightly wounded, he single-handedly carried to safety twelve men before collapsing from exhaustion. His gallantry, captured in a photograph by Gordon Short, evoked, according to the citation, `the unstinted praise of all who witnessed his action’.

While Allen never showed fear in battle, it became clear after his return to Australia in September 1943 that he was badly affected. His behaviour became erratic and in February 1944 he struck an officer and was demoted. He was assessed as suffering `constitutional temperamental instability’ with `anxiety symptoms’, as well as malaria, and was medically discharged on 10 September.

Allen lived with an uncle while recovering, having temporarily lost the power of speech. At the Salvation Army Citadel, Malvern, Melbourne, on 23 April 1949 he married Jean Elizabeth Floyd, a former army nurse. He worked as a labourer and later as a theatre orderly at Ballarat Base Hospital. On his small acreage, he raised pigs and broke horses. Well known around Ballarat for his stature, booming voice and humour, he was also popular with tourists at Sovereign Hill, the re-created gold-mining town, where he demonstrated the horse-drawn Chilean mill used to crush quartz. For most Anzac Days he travelled to Melbourne and carried his unit association’s banner in the march. Survived by his wife, and their daughter and three sons, he died of diabetes and myocardial infarction on 11 May 1982 at Sovereign Hill and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • D. Dexter, The New Guinea Offensives (1961)
  • S. Trigellis-Smith, All the King’s Enemies (1988)
  • Courier (Ballarat), 13 May 1982, p 4
  • series B883, item VX12513 (National Archives of Australia)
  • AWM119, items 19 and US30 (Australian War Memorial)
  • private information.

Citation details

John Moremon, 'Allen, Leslie Charles (Clarence) (1916–1982)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 28 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (Melbourne University Press), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Allen, Bull

9 November, 1916
Ballarat, Victoria, Australia


11 May, 1982 (aged 65)
Ballarat, Victoria, Australia

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