Biography and History

Captain William Henry Allen (W.H. Allen), a member of an aristocratic British family, settled in Burma from his home at Castle Dhuarigle in County Cork, after his position as ship Captain first took him to and from the Far East in the early 1880s. During his first perilous voyage, he transported pilgrims from Bombay to Jeddah on the S.S. Adowa. Earning a reputation as a responsible seaman, Captain Allen then captained the S.S. Kathleen; joined the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company, a passenger and cargo ferry company on the Irrawaddy River in Burma; and finally joined the Royal Indian Marine, serving as captain of the patrol boats Patrick and George which also carried passengers and government stores. He was appointed Assistant Port Officer, a position which he held until about 1910 when he was appointed Secretary to the Mayo Marine Institute.

Captain Allen married Annie Rayner (born 1864), and at the end of 1888, they traveled together to live in Burma. Annie Rayner was the daughter of Hugh and Mary Smyth Rayner and the sister of Mary, Hugh, Ellen, Fanny, Bertha, and Charles. During her life in Burma, Annie remained in contact with her family through letters and visits. Captain and Mrs. Allen were socially very active as they were part of the protocol of Rangoon and Mandalay. Over the years, the Allens spent time at Maymyo, a British Hill Station in the Shan Highlands, in addition to Rangoon.

In 1889, the Allen's daughter, Barbara Allen (1889-1979), was born. Barbara was part of the British society of Burma, despite the fact that she was probably educated at Bedford High School for Girls in England. She eventually married Major George Cecil Brooke (1870-1915), a career soldier in the 1st Battalion of the Border Regiment, and son of Brigadier Henry Francis Brooke (1836-1880). Major Brooke was educated at Wellington College in Crawthorne, Berkshire England and at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. During his military career, Major Brooke served in the Waziristan Expedition in 1895, the Malakand Expedition from 1897 to 1898, and the Siege of Tientsin and Relief of Pekin from 1900 to 1903. From 1907 to 1910, Major Brooke acted as Adjutant of Militia and Special Reserve of the Lancashire Fusiliers Depot in Bury, England. Following their marriage in 1912, George and Barbara Brooke were invited to Buckingham Palace, where they spent some time before their son, Henry John Allen Brooke, was born in 1913. Major Brooke was killed in action at the Dardanelles on April 28, 1915, very shortly after the death of Barbara's father. Barbara appears to have kept in contact with her husband's mother Ann Isabella Christopher Brooke (about 1847-1927), and his sisters, Mabel Alice (1868-1954) who married Alister Grant Dallas and Violet (1869-1936) who married Francis Hall.

Following the deaths of her father and husband, Barbara spent a good deal of time at Hampton Court Palace, living in Apartment 21, by "grace and favour" of the monarch. Like his father, Henry John Allen Brooke (1913-2003) was educated at Wellington College and made his career in the military. He served as a Commander in the Royal Navy from the late 1930s to the early 1960s, seeing action in the Spanish Civil War from 1937 to 1938 and in World War II.

Source: From the finding aid for C1441

  • Allen Family Burma Collection. 1781-1935 (inclusive).

    Call Number: C1441

    The Allen Family Burma Collection documents two generations of British aristocrats in colonial Burma, and consists of two diaries, dating from 1889 to 1890, and two scrapbooks, dating from 1781 to 1935. In total, the collection is extensive; within the scrapbooks are nearly six hundred items, including photographs, newspapers clippings, letters, and ephemera. As a group, this collection gives a great insight into colonial life in Burma immediately following Burma's incorporation into the British Empire.