Sapper Allen Forrest, Service No. 6817, was born Thomas Allen Athol Forrest on 3rd January 1882 at Thornhill ( Family farm ), on what is now called Caves Road, Yallingup. Allen was the 12th child of James and Jane Forrest. ( James had arrived at the Australind settlement on the “Trusty”with his father Gavin on 6th December 1842 ).
Thomas ( Allen ), as he was known to the family then, was born with a left Club Foot ( Equino Varus Talipes ). His father made his footwear as a child, but he was then reliant on standard size and shaped boots ( buying two pairs to obtain the appropriate sizes , but not the shape, for his feet ).
He remained a stubborn, strong willed man throughout his life. As a young man , he used the Blacksmithing and Carpentry skills he had developed, as a contractor in the heavy Jarrah and Karri Forests in the Lower South West of Western Australia. Allen enjoyed felling timber with Crosscut Saws and his favoutite Plumb broad and standard axes. He was successful in log chopping events, having mastered the nimble footwork required to change sides on the log during the chop. Allen’s skill set presented opportunities for him to work on building many wooden bridges in the South West. He was subsequently elevated to the position of Foreman of the Drainage Section in the Public Works Department.
Allen was initially prevented from enlisting for Service in the Great War, due to his Club Foot, however he persevered to successfully enlist on 1st March 1917, at 35 years of age. He had confided later, that cash had exhanged hands, to enable success in the Medical Examination, so determined was he to ” Join Up “. He completed training with the 20th Reinforcements of 28th Battalion, as a Private at Blackboy Hill Camp, then embarked in June, 1917 for Plymouth, England on the troop ship ” Borda “.
He completed further training at Fovant, Wiltshire, England before transfer to the 16th Battalion and sailing to France in January 1918. Allen was most unfortunate in sustaining an injury to his lower left leg, caused when a troop train derailed whilst carrying a working party to the ” Front “.
On 24 March, 1918 the 16th Battalion ( Part of 4th Brigade ) headed South to the Front Line at the village of Hebuterne France ( North East of Arras ). The Battalion Daily Diary clearly describes the wet, muddy condition of the Somme and the soldiers trenches. The impact of Army issue boots on Allen’s Club Foot would have been almost unbearable. Due to deterioration of his leg injury, caused earlier by the troop train derailment, he was evacuated to a Field Hospital for treatment.
On release from Hospital, Allen was transferred to the 2nd Anzac Light Gauge Railway Operations Company as a Sapper. The Light Rail transported essential supplies from Broad Gauge Depots to the front, whilst Broad Gauge Rail transported troops , together with bulk equipment and supplies. Allen’s Company also repaired lines and built new lines to aid the Allies advance.
He served in France until shortly after the Armistice , having transferred to the Broad Gauge network and General Base Depot, prior to embarking for the United Kingdom.
Allen was hospitalised at Fremantle immediately on return to Australia on the troop ship ” Ulysses “. He endured surgery on his injured left leg and suffered a Nervous Breakdown, before being discharged Medically Unfit for Service, on 29th June 1919. Although he was entitled to a War Service Pension, Allen declined to accept the benefit.
Post War, he resumed employment in his former position with the Public Works Department, and worked until beyond 65 years of age. Many South West projects for Bridges, Flood Gates and the Harvey River Diversion, were completed on Allen’s watch. His very strong work ethic propelled him through some difficult times, once the ulcer on his leg redeveloped in 1921, and remained an unhealed burden, for the balance of his life. The deep infection ultimately resulted in some bone death in his lower left leg. During this period he also suffered from decreased respiratory stamina, resulting from the effects of being gassed in France.
Allen Forrest died on 6th Decmber 1970, aged almost 89 years . He is buried in the Methodist ” C ” Section of the Bunbury Cemetery, appropriately honoured by War Service Plaque, and similarly honoured in the Australian War Garden of Remembrance, Perth.
( Sincere thanks to Thelma Kemp ( Allen Forrest’s Daughter ) for contributing the Details above. Thelma advises that Allen spoke fondly of the French People throughout his life, and it is fitting that Allen’s photo is in the Museum at Hebuterne France in acknowledgement of his sacrifice ).