Royal Irish Academy

A Revolution in Profiles - Co. Offaly

In association with The Royal Irish Academy

Thomas Allen 1892-1919

Thomas Wallace Allen was born in Gravesend, Kent in 1892 to Edward and Janet Allen. By 1911 he lived at Brockley in Lewisham. Edward Allen worked as a law clerk.

Before joining the army, Thomas was employed as an insurance clerk. By 1919 he had risen to quarter master sergeant in the Middlesex Yeomanry, was stationed at Birr where he lived with his wife Daisy (nee Steer) and their young son Archibald.

The Royal Flying Corps was formed in 1912. In September the following year it was reported…

‘Quite a sensation was caused on Tuesday evening at the polo tournament at Sharavogue, near Birr, by the descent of an army aeroplane in an adjoining field. The machine was one of those which had come over for the military manoeuvres, and the exact reason why it descended is not known.’ (1)

By 1918 the RAF established an airfield on the King estate at Ballylin, Ferbane. The crew of a an air force plane emerged unhurt after their plane crashed at Carrigeen, Eglish in December 1918.In early 1919, ground conditions meant the Ferbane site was judged unsuitable, and operations switched to Birr. The transfer attracted much attention…

‘Since the arrival of a ‘flight’ of aeroplane in Birr the inhabitants are almost daily treated to aerial displays. On Monday afternoon the evolutions of a couple of planes were watched with great interest and although at times it looked as if disaster was imminent, still it was pretty evident that the daring airmen had perfect mastery over their machines. A hanger to accommodate six has been erected on the fourteen acres and a great deal of levelling has also been done; and if what Dame Rumour says is true, Birr will soon be a centre of great aerial activity.’ (2)

On the morning of Friday 27 March 1919, Thomas Allen arranged to take his first flight in a plane piloted by Lieutenant Taylor. At 11:15 am the biplane crashed and lodged in the second story of Frend’s house in Crinkill. Both men were removed to hospital and although Taylor recovered, Allen died on the following Sunday.

‘He was buried at the Birr military cemetery. The cortege included contingents from the London (Middlesex) Yeomanry, RAF and RAMC. The coffin was covered in the union jack, the Leinster Regiment provided a firing party, and the last post was sounded. An appreciation published in the chronicle noted… Honesty in word, thought and deed was engravened deep on everything he did.’ (3)

The Author wishes to acknowledge the existing work of Stephen Callaghan, Joseph Glesson and Guy Warner


Sources:

Cario Gang Blog online at https://www.cairogang.com/soldiers-killed/allen/allen.html

Stephen Callaghan. Birr Military Cemetery: A history of the cemetery and those interned there. (Dublin) 2020.

Joseph Gleeson. Offaly and the first air war. Online at https://offalyhistoryblog.wordpress.com/2019/02/02/offaly-and-the-first-air-war-joe- gleeson/

Daithí O Corráin and Eunan O’Halpin. The dead of the Irish Revolution. (Yale) 2020.

Guy Warner. ‘Early aviation in and around Offaly’. In Offaly and the Great War edited by Michael Byrne. (Tullamore) 2018.

(1) Kings County Chronicle/Leinster Reporter 3 September 1913.

(2) Kings County Chronicle/Leinster Reporter 29 March 1919.

(3) Kings County Chronicle/Leinster Reporter 5 April 1919.

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