Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Last WW1 Australian Veteran Dies

The last Australian to see active service in World War I, William Evan Allan, from Victoria, has died at the age of 106.
Evan Allan achieved the rank of Lieutenant
The death of the former able Seaman, who enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy at the age of 14 at the outbreak of war, leaves just one Australian World War I serviceman still alive out of more than 400,000 who enlisted and 330,770 who saw overseas service. Mr Allan passed away last night at the Gregory Lodge nursing home at Flemington in Melbourne, Veterans Affairs Minister De-Anne Kelly said. He is survived by his daughter Judith Blake and grandchildren Duncan and Philippa. Mr Allan, also the sole surviving Australian veteran of both world wars, would be honoured with a state funeral, the Victorian government announced today.
Memories … On his 100th birthday in 1999, Evan Allan poses with the service medals he won in both world wars and with pictures of him as a young sailor and petty officer.
Mrs Kelly said the passing of Mr Allan left only one Australian with service in World War I. Wireless operator John Campbell Ross, 106, of Bendigo in Victoria, enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in February 1918 but the war ended before he saw active duty. "Mr Allan and his fellow servicemen were a vital part of the Australian forces during World War I. Their tireless devotion to duty was a credit to them and Australia," Mrs Kelly said. "Our World War I veterans helped to build this nation that we love. "With his passing, we have lost an entire generation who left Australia to defend our nation, the British Empire and other nations in the cause of freedom and democracy." Victorian Premier Steve Bracks also paid tribute to Mr Allan. "There's not many people now who have survived from that period and not many people who have served in both world wars," Mr Bracks said. "He's seen three centuries and it's an extraordinary period, extraordinary service and something which will be honoured here in Victoria."
Australian Hero ... William Evan Allan with his service medals.
Australia's last surviving veteran of fighting on the Western Front, Peter Casserly, 107, died in Perth in June. Mr Allan was born in Bega in NSW in July 1899 and enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy as a boy sailor at the outbreak of World War I, serving as a member of the crew of HMAS Encounter from 1915 until 1918. He sailed in the Pacific and also in the Indian Ocean, escorting troop ship convoys to Colombo.
HMAS Encounter
HMAS Encounter also took part in the search for the German raider, Wolfe, which was causing havoc among allied shipping. Mr Allan remained in the navy for 34 years, serving again during World War II. He retired in 1947, having attained the rank of lieutenant. In his later years Mr Allan retained vivid recollections of his years at sea. In a meeting with then navy chief Vice Admiral David Shackleton in 2001, he remarked how proud and happy he was each time he saw news reports of the modern day navy carrying out its operations. He recalled his time at sea as a sailor, and recounted an incident where he was washed overboard from the forecastle of HMAS Australia in 1928, spending a nervous three minutes in the water before being rescued.
HMAS Australia
RSL Victorian president Major General David McLachlan said he doubted the nation would ever again see soldiers of the calibre of the World War I diggers. "They were so committed to their nation, they suffered incredible deprivation in what they did and, of course, it was upon their contribution that we built the nation today," Maj-Gen McLachlan said. "... one wonders if we will ever ever see (that) again in the future."
Evan Allan as a ship's boy ... and at 100, right.

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