Old soldier's £1million legacy

By James Mortlock and John HowardOLD soldier Brian Allen was proud to be a member of the Suffolk Regiment and spent several years' service in the jungles of Malaya.

By James Mortlock and John Howard

OLD soldier Brian Allen was proud to be a member of the Suffolk Regiment and spent several years' service in the jungles of Malaya.

This “quiet and unassuming” man then spent the rest of his working life at a local newspaper, where he was known to have a good eye for an investment.

Few people knew Mr Allen's canny dealings had seen him amass stocks and shares worth almost £1million.

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But the high life of luxury homes, fast cars, thoroughbred racehorses and sleek yachts was not for him.

The 70-year-old lived a quiet life - but he never forgot his beloved Suffolk Regiment and has now left the majority of his estate to its museum.

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He has also bequeathed £250,000 to West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds, where he was treated while in ill-health.

Mr Allen, who died in January, was born in Bury St Edmunds and started work at the Bury Free Press weekly newspaper as an apprentice.

He left to do his National Service, serving several years in the jungles of Malaya, before returning to the paper, where he worked as a compositor.

Mr Allen, who later lived at the Woodfield Court residential home in Temple Road, Stowmarket, was known as a man who had a good eye for an investment, although he spent little on himself.

His niece, Vanessa Bonner, from Stowmarket, said he was a generous man who loved Bury St Edmunds, where his late wife Beryl worked in the Marks and Spencer's store for almost 40 years, and was proud of being a member of the Suffolk Regiment.

“He was a generous man. He was ill and they cared for him very well at hospital. I did my training at the West Suffolk and worked there as a sister for many years. I think what he has done is lovely,” she added.

Colonel Tony Taylor, secretary for the Suffolk Regiment, said he knew little of the benefactor, but believed him to be a “quiet and unassuming” person who was widower, but had never had children.

He believed the gift to be the first of its kind in the regiment's history and added: “It's a delight and a surprise to us that we are to receive the majority legacy from this estate. This has come totally out of the blue.

“I understand that his wealth came from stocks and shares. It seems he was a very private person with an interest in stocks and shares. He became a very rich man.

“The Suffolk Regiment Museum is very precious to us and this is a great bonus - it will allow us to do a great deal for the museum, not least to secure its long-term future.”

Col Taylor said Mr Allen's estate was worth almost £1m. Once the £250,000 legacy to the hospital has been handed over, along with a number of individual bequests, the remainder will go to the regiment.

He added checks had revealed Mr Allen was not a member of the Stowmarket branch of the Suffolk Regiment Association or any other section.

Col Taylor believed Mr Allen must have heard about an appeal launched by the regiment, which was disbanded in 1959, to develop its permanent exhibition at Moyse's Hall Museum in Bury St Edmunds and decided to make it the main beneficiary of his estate.

He said the bulk of the regiment's treasures remained at the Keep in Out Risbygate, Bury St Edmunds, and Mr Allen's legacy had handed it a golden opportunity to refurbish the historic main location of the museum.

“It will certainly facilitate a major and much-needed modernisation programme,” added Col Taylor.

“It's a very major bequest and it certainly has not happened before to the Suffolk Regiment or to any others which went to make up the Royal Anglian Regiment.”

Honorary curator, Major Anthony Cobbold, said: “As a museum, we rely on charitable donations and any additional money is gratefully received.

“We are absolutely over the moon - it doesn't matter if it's £10 or whatever, it is just great that he thought about the regiment.”

Renee Rudd, Mr Allen's sister-in-law, who lives in Stowmarket, said he never talked about the money he amassed through his astute stock market deals and added she was impressed with his generosity in thinking of others in Bury St Edmunds, a town he loved dearly.

A spokesman for West Suffolk Hospital said the bequest was to be spent on additional training for nurses.

“This is wonderful news and we are overjoyed to receive this money,” he added.

“Training is very important for all our health care staff and this money given to us will ensure our nurses get all the training they need to provide first-class care for our patients.

“It is pretty rare for the trust to be given such a big sum of cash and it will make a big difference.”


n The Suffolk Regiment was first established in 1685 by the Duke of Norfolk to suppress the threatened Monmouth Rebellion.

n Called the 12th Regiment of Foot, it was originally based in both Great Yarmouth and at Landguard Fort in Felixstowe.

n The official title of the group was changed to the Suffolk Regiment in 1881, more than 100 years after its most famous battle in Minden on August 1, 1759.

n To this day, the battle is still commemorated by Minden Day in Bury St Edmunds, which sees a parade in the town.

n A regular visitor to the day is former MP and respected journalist, Martin Bell, who undertook his National Service with the Suffolk Regiment.

n The regiment was renamed the First Anglian Regiment on August 29, 1959.

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