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William Fife ALLAN MM

Rank Reg/Ser No DOB Enlisted Discharge/Death Board
L/Cpl 4129 23y10m 13 Aug 1915 20 Apr 1919 4

William Fife Allan MM (1892-1967)

Allan Brothers booklet

William (‘Bill’) Fife Allan was born in Wallangarra, Queensland on 14 October 1892 to James Fife and Catherine (‘Kate’) Isabella (nee McIntosh) Allan. He served in the 9th Australian Infantry Battalion during the First World War, during which time he was awarded the Military Medal, survived being wounded and buried by a shell explosion, and had a notable public service career after the War.

His brother James Douglas (‘Doug’) Allan served with him in the 9th Battalion and is the subject of a separate entry.

Family background and early life

James Fife Allan was born in Inverurie, Scotland in 1859 and came to Australia when his family migrated in 1865. James started working as a teacher, but changed to the Queensland customs service in 1886. Prior to Federation duties were imposed at State borders, and James spent time at Betoota near the border with South Australia, a point where camel trains would cross. In 1891 he was posted to the border town of Wallangarra, a key point where goods arriving by NSW rail would have to be transferred to the Queensland trains (which ran on track with a narrower gauge).

In July 1891 James married Kate McIntosh, who had been born near Warwick in 1861 to a family well known in the district. At that time Kate’s father ran Blinkbonnie Station. Two sons and two daughters were born to the couple in Wallangarra.

At some point after 1898 James was posted to Cairns, but in March 1900 he was promoted to Townsville. He was there when creation of the Australian Federation on 1 January 1901 and particularly section 69 of the Australian Constitution, meant the automatic and immediate transfer of all existing State customs and excise departments to a new Commonwealth Department of Trade and Customs. A third son – Ronald McIntosh Allan – was born in 1903 while the Allan family was in Townsville, and Bill attended the Townsville Grammar School there.

In October 1908 James was posted to Brisbane. The family settled in the Brisbane suburb of Chelmer and joined the congregation of St Andrew’s Church in the Brisbane CBD. In 1922 James was an Inspector of excise, and he retired in 1924.

Bill attended Brisbane Grammar School in 1909 and entered the Queensland Public Service in 1913 – initially in the Agricultural Bank (within the Agriculture portfolio). However, by 1915 he was in the Department of Public Lands.

World War 1 Enlistment

The 9th Infantry Battalion was in the first wave ashore at Gallipoli in April 1915 and suffered very heavy casualties during the landing and subsequent fighting. Reinforcements were essential and on 13 August 1915 Bill and brother Doug enlisted.

Bill was 5’9” (175cm) tall with a dark complexion, brown eyes and hair, and weighed 8st 9lbs (54kg). In camp at Enoggera in Brisbane, Bill (and Doug) made friends with a young farmer from Lismore, Albert Hugh Larsson, who after the War would marry their sister Ethel.

Embarkation for France

On 3 January 1916 the three were among the the 13th reinforcement for the 9th Battalion who embarked on HMAT A55 Kyarra in Brisbane, disembarking in Alexandria, and then travelling to Marseilles. They were taken on strength with the 9th Battalion in France on 14 May 1916.

The 9th Battalion’s first major action in France was in the attack at Pozieres in the Somme Valley and Australian casualties were horrendously high. Future brother-in-law Albert Larsson won the Military Medal for bravery on 25 July.

Interestingly Bill was made a Lance Corporal in October 1917 but after a week he chose to return, at his own request, to the rank of Private. The official records don’t indicate why, but family papers suggest that rather than going on training courses he preferred in fight it out in the trenches to expedite victory.

The Military Medal

At Meteren on the night of 10-11 May 1918 Bill’s actions led to the award of the Military Medal. The recommendation for the award said that he ‘displayed marked initiative and devotion to duty'. He went forward to examine posts in a hop-field and was personally responsible for the capture of three Germans. Later he displayed great courage as one of a party '…who went out on a daylight raid and brought in 11 prisoners.’. An earlier draft of the recommendation also said that he did ‘valuable patrol work during the Battalion’s tour in the line and gained much useful information’.

These events are included in volume vi of Bean’s Official History. When providing some biographical information to Bean in 1937, Bill commented that he was reading the volumes of the Official History and was getting ‘a glimmering of the trials and tribulations of those staff officers who were endowed with our gratuitous curses’, although he was ‘sorry your printer used that damned Americanism ‘connexion’’.

Wounded at Strazeele Ridge

Bill’s curses may have been particularly applicable on 30 May 1918, when he was wounded in the line at Strazeele Ridge, in the Meteren sector. His service record refers to wounds to his left hand and scalp, and in later years when enlisting in the Volunteer Defence Corps Bill wrote that he was buried by a shell in 1918. Also, family records say that he was buried unconscious in a dugout which had collapsed following a nearby shell explosion.

He spent a lengthy period in hospital, and it took some time before he could walk properly again. While Bill was in hospital he was promoted to Lance Corporal (5 June 1918).

Bill arrived back in Australia on the Orsova in March 1919.

Public service career

Bill returned to the Queensland Public Service. His personnel file is no longer available, having been culled in accordance with general practice. However, from other records we know that in July 1924 Bill was an assessor clerk in the unemployment insurance claims section of the Department of Public Works. This unemployment insurance scheme had been introduced in Queensland in 1923, after the Queensland Government had become impatient with the limited progress by the Commonwealth and the other States in deliberating on what should be done in this area.

By 1930 Bill was a senior assessor clerk in the same area, although it was by then within the Department of Labour and Industry.

On 24 April 1925 in St Andrew’s Church Bill married Glasgow-born clerk Janet (‘Jenny’) Hiddleston. Jenny was an accomplished pianist and organist. They lived at ‘Terrapax’ (peace on earth) in Swann Road, Taringa in Brisbane and had one son in 1927, Blair Fife Allan.

In February 1940 Bill was promoted in the Department of Labour and Industry from Senior Clerk, State Development Tax to State Development Tax Officer. Queensland had introduced a State Development Tax in 1938, primarily as a means as a means of funding public works to be undertaken by those among the unemployed who did not have rights under the unemployment insurance scheme.

In 1945 the Commonwealth Government commenced making unemployment payments to jobseekers (not an insurance scheme) and the following year brought a Commonwealth Employment Service into full operation, effectively taking on this area of administration from the States. Bill moved to the Commonwealth Public Service in May 1946, to the position of Chief Employment Officer in the Queensland Branch of the Department of Labour and National Service. When he retired 11 years later he was Deputy Director of Employment in Queensland.

 At his farewell from the Department speakers ‘praised Mr Allan’s happiness, application to his job, and the help he had given to many sections of the community, including Diggers, the blind, and Boy Scouts’. The Diggers he helped included returning World War 2 servicemen who needed vocational guidance and related services, as well as rehabilitation services for those who had been wounded.

World War 2 – part-time service

Bill joined the Volunteer Defence Corps (VDC) when it was established in mid 1940 by the Returned Sailors’, Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. The VDC came under the control of the Australian Army in 1941, and then became part of the CMF in 1942. Most service in the VDC was part-time, and much of the time was spent in training for activities such as the construction of road blocks, demolition of bridges and piers, protection infrastructure, searchlight operations and guerrilla warfare.

Bill became an acting Captain in the 1st Queensland Battalion in October 1942, and served in that capacity until 1945. Coincidentally, he led a search party in 1942 that located the body of a missing person near Mt Cootha – that of William Roy Cowley, who is also listed on the Saint Andrew’s Honour Boards.


Bill died on 16 January 1967 in Brisbane at the age of 74 years. His ashes were interred, with Presbyterian rites, at the Mt Thompson Memorial Gardens in Brisbane.

Select bibliography
• Annual reports, Department of Public Lands (Qld), and Sub-department of Labour (Qld), Queensland Parliamentary Papers
• Australian War Memorial records
• Brisbane Grammar School records
• National Archives of Australia – service records WW1 and WW2, repatriation records
• Queensland Births Marriage and Death Registers
• Queensland Blue Books (State Library of Queensland)
• Queensland Land Administration Board, Reports on land questions by Royal Commissions and the Land Administration Board 1927-1933 (State Library of Queensland)
• Queensland State Archives – JD Allans’s personnel file, Item ID 934515, Series 6219 Staff Files
• Anderson, Heather The Gardiner/McIntosh Connection (Privately published, Star Printing, 1997)
• Bean, CEW Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918 (Sydney 1921-1942) vol vi
• Harvey, Norman K From Anzac to the Hindenberg Line: the history of the 9th Battalion, AIF (Brisbane, 1941)
• Palazzo, Albert The Australian army: a history of its organisation from 1901 to 2001 (Melbourne, 2001)
• Wrench, CM Campaigning with the fighting 9th: (in and out of the line with the 9bn A.I.F.)  1914-1919 (Brisbane, 1985)
• The Courier Mail (Brisbane) 11 April 1938 p.9S; 13 April 1942 p.8; 22 June 1943 p.4; 18 January 1967
• The Queenslander (Brisbane) 4 July 1891 p.35
• The Telegraph (Brisbane) 16 April 1881 p.2; 10 February 1891 p.3; 10 January 1913 p.2; 8 February 1940, p.9
• The Week (Brisbane) 30 March 1900 p.3
• Warwick Argus 22 March 1898 p.2
• Warwick Examiner and Times 1 August 1891 p.2
• Family Information

Compiled by Ian Carnell AM, December 2017 © 



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