John Thomas Allan, from South Shields, served during the Great War as a Donkeyman in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, and was serving aboard the fleet oiler R.F.A. Mixol, having joined this ship on 18 October 1916.


RFA Mixol

An incident occurred on 19 June 1918 when an Able Seaman fell overboard in between the oiler and a battle cruiser which was then about to be refuelled. The citation for Allan's Albert Medal for Gallantry in Saving Life at Sea, 2nd Class in Bronze was published in the London Gazette for 20 September 1918.

John Allan AM front

Donkeyman John Allan's Albert Medal Obverse

John Allan  AM reverse

Donkeyman John Allan's Albert Medal Reverse

The King approved the award of the Albert Medal for gallantry in saving life at sea to John Thomas Allan, Donkeyman, M.M.R. No.942760. The account of the services, in respect of which this medal was conferred, is as follows: - As the R.F.A. Mixol was dropping alongside to fuel one of H.M. Battle Cruisers on the 19 June 1918, Able Seaman Thomas W Johnson slipped and fell overboard between Mixol and the Cruiser; Mixol was only about ten feet clear of the Cruiser, and was closing at the time. Donkeyman John Allan, who was standing on the fore well deck of Mixol, saw the Johnson fall and that he was struggling in the water. Although it was clear that the man in the water was in imminent danger of being crushed between the two ships, Allan at once jumped overboard in the clothes he was wearing to save him. He assisted the AB to keep afloat until a rope was thrown, which he gave to him, AB Johnson was hauled on board before Allan took the rope himself. The ship was in an open anchorage, and the temperature of the water was 50 degrees.

Donkeyman John Allan became one of only two members of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary to be awarded the Albert Medal, and he was discharged from RFA Mixol at Liverpool on 16 August 1919.

Only 211 Albert Medals for Gallantry in Saving Life at Sea, 2nd Class in Bronze were ever awarded. In 1971, the Albert Medal was discontinued and all living recipients were invited to exchange the award for the George Cross. From the total of 64 eligible to exchange, 49 took up the option. Donkeyman Allan had died from natural causes in 1936 and therefore was not available to exchange his award.

Images of Donkeyman John Allan’s medal used with the consent of Wellington Auctions


Copyright © 2008 – 2017 Christopher J White

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