Allen, Michael (DFC)
The following obituary is reprinted from The Daily Telegraph.
FLIGHT LIEUTENANT MIKE ALLEN, who has died aged 78, won three DFCs as a navigator and radar operator in night fighters during the Second World War. He and his pilot Squadron Leader (later Air Commodore) Harry White, flew together for almost four years, forming an unusually long and successful partnership which accounted for at least 12 enemy aircraft. In the latter half of the war, the pair served in Mosquitoes with No 141 Squadron, part of 100 Group, which had been given the task of supporting the nightly bomber raids on Germany, The Mosquitoes were equipped with radar counter measures, and Allen and White’s orders were to take on the enemy fighters targeting the RAF’s lumbering Lancasters and Wellingtons.
In this Allen was greatly aided by the invention of “Serrate”, a device which enabled night fighters to home in on their prey with unerring accuracy. He and White had, however, first honed their skills in Bristol Beaufighters. Among the many sorties they flew in these was that of the night of 17 August 1945, when a force of 596 bombers was despatched to attack the rocket research station at Peenemunde on Germany’s Baltic coast. Allen and White’s aircraft was one of 10 ordered to take up position near the enemy fighter bases in Holland and Germany as the raiders passed over them on their way to and from the target. Early that night, their Beaufighter was almost shot down by a marauding Me 110.but White’s evasive manoeuvres rescued the situation. A little while later Allen spotted a German fighter tracking a stream of bombers heading homewards. White closed on the Me 110 and the pair later learned that they had managed to destroy it. Shortly afterwards, Allen directed White near enough to a Ju88 to identify it in the moonlight. As White opened fire, there was a blinding flash, and the enemy aeroplane spiralled downwards, exploding as it hit the ground. The radar expertise of Allen and the other Beaufighter crews had helped to restrict losses among the bombing party to just 40 aircraft and Allen’s skill was recognised in 1945 by the award of the first of his DFCs. By then, he and White were known in Bomber Command as “The Old Firm”, since they had already been a team for more than two years. Experienced as they were in combat, however, both were barely 20 years of age.
Michael Seamer Allen was born on March 15 1925 at Croydon, Surrey, and educated at Hurstpierpoint College, Sussex. He then studied mechanical engineering at night school before being apprenticed to Fairey Aviation. Aeronautical engineering apprentices often had difficulty being accepted for aircrew training in wartime as their employers had first claim on their specialist skills. Allen’s father, however, was also in the aviation business and was able to persuade Fairey to release his son. He and Allen’s mother were subsequently killed when a V2 rocket destroyed their house in July 1944. Allen joined the RAF in June 1941 and two months later was paired with Harry White at No 54 Training Unit, at Church Fenton, Yorkshire. They remained together until November 1945. They were first posted to No 29, a Beaufighter night squadron at West Malling, in Kent. Shortly afterwards, they moved to No 534 at Tangmere, Sussex, from where they flew Havoc night fighters (converted Douglas Bostons), each equipped with a Turbinlite searchlight in the nose. The notion was that the Havocs would use their radar to search out enemy aircraft, which would then be picked out with the searchlight and shot down by an accompanying Hurricane. In practice, the scheme was none too successful. but Allen regarded the 15 months that he and White spent in Havocs as invaluable training in the art of night fighting.
After a spell of ferrying Beaufighters to the Middle East. Allen moved to No 141 Squadron, and. having won two Bars to his DFC m 1944, thence to the Bomber Development Support Unit at Foulsham, Norfolk. He and White then resumed active duties and had their closest shave of the war while taking off on their 91st operational sortie on a bleak evening in January 1945. The engine of their Mosquito failed as the aircraft left the ground, and the fighter nose-dived into a field. White and Alien found themselves in a heap in the cabin, with Allen’s foot jammed in the fuselage, White pinned underneath him, and the aircraft on fire, White reached for an axe, reasoning that their only chance of escape was to amputate Allen’s trapped foot. Fortunately, a farmer and two labourers who had seen the crash managed to pull them to safety just as the Mosquito went up in flames.
Allen was demobbed in 1946 and began a career in personnel management. He worked for Avro, the Manchester-based aircraft company, Pye Telecommunications, BTR and Rank Hovis McDougall. In 1966 he moved to South Africa, where he became chairman of the Pretoria branch of the South African Air Force Association. He returned to Britain in 1982 and worked for the Officers’ .Association. He published, in 1999, Pursuit through Darkened Skies. Mike Allen married, in 1949. Vivien Hallett. They had a two sons and a daughter. The marriage was dissolved, and in 1977 he married, secondly, Pamela Miller.
Addition by Newsletter Editor:
Shortly before he died, Michael wrote to me in response to my editorial in the last newsletter [Jan 2001]. The theme of his letter was that while we have a good record of those who were killed serving their country, we do not always recognise those who were decorated as heroes. He mentioned the following OJs: Playne Stevens DSO. DFC and bar, lan Joll, DFC and Jimmy Matthews DSO, DFC and bar.
He also mentioned S H Dowse: “I believe that if someone could unearth the full account of his time as a POW at Stalag Luft III, and the part he played in The Great Escape, you would have a story that would set all the bells ringing! His fantastic answer to the question as to what he did after he was recaptured and sent to a concentration camp was ‘Oh, we just started tunnelling again!” Mind you SH would kill me if he learned afterwards that I had spilled the beans!”