Harry the hero

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Like many soldiers, when Harry Allan returned from fighting he didn’t want to talk about it.

In fact, the miner wouldn’t tell his family why he had been awarded a Military Medal and Bar for his efforts in World War One, choosing instead to joke that he received it for stealing a fish supper from a German.

But now, thanks to the research of his grandson John Wilson, the story of Sergeant Allan’s bravery has come to light.

John, from Airth, only decided to look into his grandfather’s past after visiting Belgium.

The keen biker said: “I had went on a run and we visited some of the battlesites.

Seeing the mass cemeteries and thinking of the millions who gave up their lives for our freedom, you can’t help but be affected.

“Once I got back, I was determined to look into my grandfather’s history and find out why he had been honoured.”

Harry was born around 1890 and fought with the 5th Battalion Cameron Highlanders from 1914-18.

John (63) said: “It transpired he fought in nearly every major battle during that time, including the Battle of the Somme and Ypres – known for being two of the worst for loss of lives.

“My grandad was either very lucky or very unlucky depending on how you look at it.

“He was unfortunate to be sent to fight in all those battles, but that he managed to come through each one is incredible. There can’t be many men who managed that.”

Sergeant Allan was awarded the Military Medal for bravery during battle for carrying out a mission in 1918 to collect more ammunition for the Machine Gun Corps.

He was forced to crawl in the direct line of the German gunners and was subjected to heavy gun fire during numerous trips, but miraculously he survived and managed to get the corps vital supplies.

He was received the additonal honour of a silver laurelled bar later that year for a fearless attack that saw him take on four German soldiers single-handed during a search of enemy points.

He killed three men and injured the fourth.

The medal, which was the equivalent of the Military Cross for soldiers below commissioned rank, was one of the highest that could be awarded to a sergeant but Harry refused to tell his family why he was given it.

John, an HGV driver, said: “Knowing what I do now about his time in the war I can understand why he didn’t talk about it.

“The things he was forced to see and do were horrific and back then the guys weren’t given any help when they got home to get over the trauma so it must have been easier to block it out.”

“That is why I think Remembrance Sunday is so important. It’s vital the public continue to support their troops so they can access the help and support needed when returning from war.”

Sadly John didn’t get to know his grandfather as after surviving numerous battles during World War One, he passed away from silicosis contracted after years down the pits.

He concluded: “On Sunday, when I hear 'The Last Post' being played, I’ll remember my grandfather as well as the countless other men who fought, or continue to fight, for our freedom.”