ALLEN, John Duncan

WO1 Regimental Sergeant Major
Royal Armoured Corps
Service number: 
On the 9th July 1943 the then Sergeant John Duncan Allen was awarded the George Medal in recognition of conspicuous gallantry in carrying out hazardous work in a very brave manner. This was awarded for "saving a life in a rock climbing accident in Gibraltar." [1]
He had previously received a MiD whilst a Lance Sergeant for "gallant and distinguished services in successful combined operations against the enemy at Vaagso and Maaloy." [2]

Extract from the Newcastle Journal - Saturday 10 July 1943

"Commando Lassoed Falling Down Cliff :- An officer plunging to certain death on a rocky beach at Gibraltar was lassoed in mid-air by a sergeant who himself had only a toe-hold on a sheer face of rock 60 feet above the beach. For his complete disregard of the prospect that he might have been hurled from the rock to his own death, Sgt. John Duncan Allen, who comes from Wivenhoe,  Essex, is awarded the George Medal." 
"The citation in last nights London Gazette states " When as climbing instructor to a party of Commando soldiers at Gibraltar on March 31, 1943, Sergt. Allen led the way down a sheer face of rock 100 feet above a rocky beach. The face was unclimbable and the descent had to be made hand over hand down a rope with the feet against a rock surface." 
"An officer who followed Sergeant Allen negotiated 20 feet of the descent  succesfully and then slipped and was left hanging 80 feet above the ground, unable to get his feet back into a gripping position. Seeing the officer’s predicament, Sergeant Allen made a most hazardous climb to a precarious foothold within about 20 feet of the officer. The latter, by this time exhausted, let go of the rope and fell. As he fell Sergeant Allen managed to throw a rope loop over the officer's shoulders which miraculously caught under the officer's arm. At great personal risk Sergeant Allen kept a grip on the running end of the rope which tightened on the falling officer after about 20 feet and broke his fall."
"By his skill and spontaneous courage Sergeant Allen undoubtedly saved the officer's life, and in doing so faced what appeared to be almost a certainty of being dragged down to death himself." [3]
[1] London Gazettes Supplement 36085 page 3103.
[1] Memoirs of a Fighting Commando in WW2 by Brig Durnford-Slater.
[2] London Gazettes  Supplement 35510 page1506.
[3] Newcastle Journal - Saturday 10 July 1943
[3] British Newspaper Archive (website; The British Library Board.
Rank shown as in Commando Association Lost Legion List No 1 where his last known address is recorded as Westbury, Wilts. [view in gallery]

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