ON THIS DAY: South Yorkshire soldier's "most conspicuous bravery" a century ago

This weekend we salute Sheffield son whose "devotion to duty" won him coveted Victoria Cross.

Sunday, 4th September 2016, 8:31 am
Updated Sunday, 4th September 2016, 9:36 am
William Barnsley Allen (as portrayed on cigarette card)

When: September 3 1916

Where: 246th (West Riding) Brigade Royal Field Artillery battery position near Mesnil in France.

Star archive coverage of his heroism

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What: Gun detachments, unloading munitions from recently arrived wagons, came under enemy fire, first shell exploding ammunition and causing several casualties.

Enter our hero who, with complete disregard for his own danger, ran under heavy fire to dress wounded and, through his promptness, saved many bleeding to death.

He was himself hit four times during the first hour by shrapnel, one of which fractured two ribs, which he didn't mention at the time, coolly continued until last comrade was rescued.

It was only after tending a wounded officer at another battery, he returned to his dug-out and reported his own injury.

Star archive coverage of his heroism

Who: Major William Barnsley Allen VC DSO MC

Born June 8 1892, Allen attended St Cuthbert’s College, now Worksop College, then studied medicine at Sheffield University. he was member of Sheffield University Officers Training Corps, whose Somme Barracks home boasts Allen VC Room, proudly displaying framed photo, citation as well as copies of the coveted award and other medals.

Allen graduated MB and ChB in 1914 before joining Royal Army Medical Corps within a week of our declaration of war on Germany. He was commissioned as a Lieutenant attached to 3rd West Riding Field Ambulance before being promoted to captain.

The brave army medical officer was decorated for gallantry four times during World War One, culminating in British and Commonwealth forces' most prestigious award for gallantry.

Military Cross bar was added in 1917 after intense bombardment by high explosive and gas shells saw him leave Advance Dressing Station to again search for wounded men in remote areas. Although seriously gassed, he continued to perform his duties until eventually evacuated to Casualty Clearing Station.

October 1918 saw the then acting major awarded Distinguished Service Order during fighting west of Saulzoir for Selle River line, displaying once more high degree of fearless initiative in organising collection of wounded brothers in arms before gas got the better of him.

Allen also received a mention in dispatches at the end of the war.

He died of an accidental drug overdose in 1933 but his Victoria Cross, displayed at Army Medical Services Museum at Mytchett in Surrey, serves as lasting testament to another respected Sheffield man of steel.