Last week, members of the airman’s family were at his graveside in the quiet village of Poix-du-Nord, northern France, to dedicate a new headstone.
Flying Officer Derek Allen DFC joined the Royal Air Force in 1937 aged just 19 years old.
Posted to 85 Squadron he found himself flying in the skies over northern France, locked in battle with the German Luftwaffe during May 1940.
He was credited with four outright and three shared enemy ‘kills’ before his Hurricane aircraft was shot down over farmland on 18 May 1940.
His body was never officially recovered. He was listed as missing, presumed dead, and posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross on 31 May 1940.
Recent research by the Air Historical Branch discovered records that proved the young pilot had been removed from the aircraft wreckage by locals. Buried as an ‘unknown airman’ in their village cemetery, Fg Off Allen remained nameless for 71 years.
But, last week, his younger brother Richard Allen, now in his eighties, led three generations of the family to where Fg Off Allen now lies:
There are 26 of us paying our respects to Derek, ranging from over 80 to one year old. My sister-in-law and my cousin from Canada have joined my son, three daughters, nephews and nieces and my eight grandchildren here today.
They are only beginning to learn about what Derek did but the ceremony will bring the story home to the young ones.
It will bring the family together in the act of remembrance. It happened long ago and one had almost forgotten, but it is a great relief to know where he rests.
RAF Chaplain The Reverend Dr (Squadron Leader) Andrew Wakeham-Dawson, conducted the order of service. He said:
By honouring the fallen, we give respect and gratitude for their commitment and devotion to duty. We appreciate and value the sacrifice made by our colleagues whether in World War II or in recent operations.
The circumstances may be different in Afghanistan but the courage and example of those who serve matches that of our predecessors, who rose to the challenge when duty called.