WWII navy commander, Legion of Honour recipient and ‘reluctant hero’ from Northampton dies aged 97

Albert had an ‘active war’ and was even buried alive and presumed dead on one occasion

Tuesday, 5th October 2021, 8:30 am

A former navy commander from Northampton who was recognised for his service during World War Two has died, aged 97.

Albert Allen, born and bred in Northampton, joined the navy at the age of 16 (but had to give his age as 18) and served for the entirety of World War Two from 1939 to 1945 in various places including Sierra Leone, in the Arctic and Normandy, which eventually led to him being awarded France’s highest military accolade.

The 97-year-old lived in Albion Place in the town centre and was active until he died on September 23.

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Albert Allen died last month aged 97.

Reflecting on his decorated military career and his life as a whole, Albert’s daughter has now paid tribute to her ‘larger than life’ father.

Diane Walton said: “Dad was a reluctant hero. It wasn’t until we went back to Normandy in 2018 that I knew about his achievements in the war.

“He was just a lovely, lovely dad. He was full of life, full of fun and larger than life.

“He used to go out everyday. He’d pop down to town and was generally very active until the end and he was always sharp as a tack.

Former Lord-Lieutenant of Northamptonshire David Laing surprised Albert by calling him up to present him with the Legion of Honour in 2019.

“He was also passionate about raising money particularly for the Blind Veterans charity."

During his time in the navy Albert was stationed in Normandy the night before D-Day where he signalled Canadian Army assault crafts from Juno Beach.

Later that year and five days before his 21st birthday, Albert was missing and presumed dead in Antwerp when a V2 rocket killed 567 people.

Among the dead was Albert’s friend who had been sitting beside him, but Albert himself was buried alive and then dug out by Canadian forces.

Albert spent his special birthday with nurses picking out rubble and shrapnel from his face and body.

For his bravery and service, Albert was awarded France's highest military medal - the Legion d'Honneur back in 2019 when he was surprised by family members and the Lord Lieutenant of Northamptonshire.

Diane added: “We are incredibly proud of him and his achievements and he was really blown away by the Legion d’Honneur he was awarded.

“He had an active war, but he would make us laugh with all his stories of things that happened.

“We’d heard them hundreds of times over the years so much so that I started recording him telling the stories.”

Upon returning from war Albert worked in the shoe and boot industry, as a bookmaker and then as an office manager until he retired.

Albert enjoyed horse racing and bowls and was even on his team’s bowls tour in Western-super-Mare just weeks before he died.

Last year, he also took part in a fundraiser for Blind Veterans where he completed 26 squats a day on his balcony during lockdown.

Albert leaves behind Diane, her brother and a loving family who will miss him greatly.