SECOND World War veteran and leading County Armagh Orangeman Norman Allen has died after a short illness. He was 90.
Mr Allen was a veteran of the dangerous Second World War Bomber Command which flew deep into German territory to carry out missions on cities like Dresden, Wesel, Dortmond and Leipzig, with the loss of over 55,000 airmen - 50 per cent of the personnel.
And while his family mourn the death of a true Christian gentleman, they are gratified that he lived to see the unveiling by the Queen - in June this year - of the £7m Bomber Command Memorial in London, designed by architect Liam O’Connor and made possible through public donations.
Mr Allen, his daughter Janet Kells and daughter-in-law Margaret Allen, were among the 5,000 who attended the London ceremony, which ended six decades of controversy. Successive British Government’s, starting with Winston Churchill’s wartime administration, had tried to airbrush Bomber Command out of history, on the back on international criticism on the blanket bombing of German cities. But, in an interview with the Portadown Times after he returned from London, Mr Allen told us, “We were simply carrying out orders. So many of us put our lives on the line.”
A gunner on one of the famous Lancaster bombers, he took part in 15 missions. He was just 22 at the time and said in his Times interview, “I was one of the lucky ones. True, it was dangerous, but it was exciting and I have to admit I look back of my wartime service as the most enjoyable time of my life.”
In his personal life, Mr Allen - whose home is at Derryloughan Road Loughgall - had many diverse interests, notably the Orange Order, of which he was County Grand Master during the bicentenary year 1995. It was totally appropriate as he lived close to the Battle of the Diamond site which prompted the formation of the Order in nearby Loughgall in 1795.
At one stage, he travelled to New Zealand to meet the Brethren there, and that, too, was appropriate as he actually served in the 75th New Zealand Squadron of Bomber Command. They were based at Ely in England, and the young Norman Allen volunteered to join their ranks.
Officers of the County Armagh Grand Lodge and of Loughgall District No 3 have paid their tributes and respects. His funeral, on Boxing Day at Cranagill Methodist Church - of which he was a devout member - was well-attended, with Orangemen and women coming from all over the province to pay their respects. He was a member of Diamond Memorial LOL No 85, its former Grand Master, and loved to welcome members of the worldwide Orange family to the area where the Order was founded.
Mr Allen was a renowned apple grower and respected throughout the farming industry. Even though he was 90, he continued to “dabble” in farming, his main hobby being the keeping of free-range chickens, “just to keep me occupied”.
He was deeply loved by his entire family circle, who were proud of his wartime service and delighted that he lived to see the Bomber Command finally recognised. The Allen party flew to London with veteran John McFarland and his family, John’s plane having been shot down in April 1944, and he finished the wart in the notorious Stalag Luft III. The two heroes had much to discuss during that momentous trip.
A fortnight after the London ceremony, Mr Allen attended the County Armagh Twelfth demonstration in Keady, and as ever enjoyed the occasion.
He was a staunch unionist, being a member of the Newry-Armagh Ulster Unionist Association, and was a Justice of the Peace.
Norman Allen is survived by sons and daughters Marshall, Ronnie, Gordon, Janet and Carol, and was the father-in-law of Margaret, Gail, Phyllis, Maurice and Eddie and a devoted grandfather and great-grandfather.
After the service of thanksgiving at Cranagill Methodist Church, burial was in Cranagill Cemetery. Donations, if desired, are to the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, c/o Joseph Poots Funeral Directors, 42 Bridge Street, Portadown BT63 5AE.