Lieutenant-Colonel Freddie Allen, who has died aged 92, won two DSOs in 1945 in the battles of the Ardennes and the Reichswald.
In December 1944, the Germans broke through the Ardennes in what was their last substantial counter-offensive on the Western front. The 1st Battalion East Lancashire Regiment, part of the 53rd Welsh Division, was deployed in thickly wooded country interspersed with steep, icy, snow-covered tracks. The men were dug into slit trenches in temperatures well below freezing point. It was too cold to sleep, and cases of frostbite and physical exhaustion were beginning to appear.
On January 7 1945, after three days in an exposed position under accurate enemy shelling and mortar fire, the East Lancashires, under Allen’s command, were ordered to attack the village of Grimbiemont. The battalion formed up in a snowstorm driven by an artic wind, but just before beginning the attack their Advance HQ group received a direct hit.
The adjutant and several intelligence personnel were killed and the communication equipment was destroyed. Allen, who was close by and escaped injury, quickly reorganised his HQ and moved forward to the Start Line. But when he got there, he found that the tank support for his forward companies was not available because, in spite of earlier reconnaissance, they could not cross the frozen stream that ran along the bottom of the valley.
Since his battalion communications were out of action, Allen moved up to his forward companies and the attack went ahead across 1,500 yards of open ground, uphill, knee-deep in snow towards the Germans who held the summit. The inter-company wireless sets were knocked out and when a series of machine gun posts opened up, casualties mounted swiftly.
Allen directed his battalion under heavy fire from artillery and mortars, and handled his reserves with such skill that the momentum of the attack was sustained and the objective taken. The citation for his DSO paid tribute to his coolness under fire and his complete disregard for danger in a very critical situation.
Fernley Frederick Edmund Allen was born in London on December 12 1912 and educated at Brighton College. Always known as Freddie, he started work with CE Heath, the insurance brokers, who sent him to Berlin and then to Paris.
In 1937, Allen enrolled in a TA battalion of the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and was commissioned before the outbreak of war. He subsequently transferred to the Suffolk Regiment and took part in the Normandy landings in June 1944 as second-in-command of their 1st Battalion. He later took command when their CO was wounded in Holland.
In November 1944, Allen assumed charge of the 1st Battalion East Lancashire Regiment. Early in February 1945, the Allies launched operations to clear the area between the Rivers Maas and the Rhine. The Reichswald, a forest of densely packed trees which concealed pill-boxes and bunkers that formed a northern sector of the Seigfried Line, was a formidable obstacle.
On February 11, the East Lancashires were advancing towards Klosterhufe when the leading company was held up by self-propelled guns, mortar and small arms fire. Allen went forward to help them but he was hit on the chin by a bullet and knocked out. He regained consciousness soon afterwards, however, and under his leadership his men fought their way through to their objective and arrived there after dark.
Allen reorganised his position in the knowledge that many of his fighting vehicles were stuck in the mud of the forest tracks and the enemy had cut his communications to the rear. No outside help could get to him during the night and German forces in strength were on three sides of him. It was impossible to move food and water forward and he was unable to evacuate his casualties.
The next day, the enemy, using Panzer units, put in several fierce counter-attacks but these were beaten off with heavy losses. Throughout a long and anxious period of 27 hours, Allen, in spite of his wound, lack of sleep and heavy responsibilities, continued to command his battalion with skill, calm confidence and outstanding personal gallantry. He was awarded a Bar to his DSO.
In May, during the occupation of Hamburg, the East Lancashires were allocated part of the dock area. Late one evening, a solitary barge was observed gliding surreptitiously past on its way to the mainstream of the Elbe. At first it ignored a signal to pull in, but a burst of machine gun fire across the bows brought about a change of mind and it came in for examination. On board were excellent cases of wine and spirits that had been looted from all over Europe and were on their way to Schleswig-Holstein for the senior Nazis still holding out there. These spoils were off-loaded and, with a formal note of thanks for timely delivery, the empty barge was sent on its way to Admiral Doenitz.
When the war ended, Allen, who spoke fluent German, was involved in the reconstruction of Germany. He was appointed Military Governor of Brunswick and then joined the finance division of the British Military Government. In 1946 he returned to the insurance industry. He joined the Stewart Smith Group as a director two years later and became managing director in 1955, retiring in 1976. The following year, he took part in Operation Winterwalk in which some 200 British Officers and NCOs, together with American and German participants, re-enacted some of the major events of the Ardennes campaign.
In 1997, Allen went to America to be closer to his son and grandchildren, and moved into a retirement community at Rye, New York.
Freddie Allen died on June 29. He married, in 1936, Dorothy Maltzahn, the daughter of a German father and a Scottish mother. She predeceased him and he is survived by their son.