Allen, Reginald Clifford, Baron Allen of Hurtwood 1889-1939, labour politician, was born at Newport, Monmouthshire, 9 May 1889, the elder son of Walter Allen, a Newport draper, by his wife, Frances Augusta Baker. He was educated at Berkhamsted School, University College, Bristol, and Peterhouse, Cambridge. His political interests were first aroused by hearing J. Keir Hardie [qv.] as a boy at Newport; and at Cambridge he was chairman of the University Fabian Society. In 1911 he was appointed secretary and general manager of the first official labour daily newspaper, the Daily Citizen, until it ceased in 1915. He was also chairman of the University Socialist Federation from 1912 to 1915.
In November 1914 he was one of the founders and the chairman of the No Conscription Fellowship, the members of which opposed the military service acts and refused service in the armed forces, some, like Allen, also refusing to perform alternative service, on conscientious grounds. While chairman of the fellowship (1914-1918) he was three times imprisoned during the years 1916 and 1917, and the hunger strikes which he sustained almost cost him his life and certainly undermined a naturally frail physique.
In 1920 Allen visited Russia as a member of a delegation representing the independent labour party, of which he was an active officer, serving (1922-1926) as chairman and treasurer, and as chairman of the New Leader, its official weekly journal. He contributed by counsel, speech, and pen to the Socialism in Our Time propaganda which the independent labour party conducted in the 'twenties. So long as the official labour movement was solely responsible for its publication he was a director of the Daily Herald (1925-1930).
When the labour government dissolved in 1931, Allen joined Ramsay MacDonald in the national labour organization, and approved its collaboration in the national government formed in that year; he was raised to the peerage as Baron Allen of Hurtwood, in Surrey, in 1932. He was a keen and informed supporter of the League of Nations and severed his connexion with the national labour group in 1936, owing to disagreement on this aspect of international policy. After meeting Hitler and Göring in Berlin, in 1935, Allen wrote and spoke extensively in favour of collective security.
Intensely interested in educational affairs, Allen of Hurtwood was chairman of the executive of the Home and School Council and chairman of the New Schools Association. He married in 1921 Marjory, second daughter of George Joseph Gill, and with her conducted a co-educational school on modern lines near Guildford. He published various political works, a preface to Conscription and Conscience (1922), Putting Socialism into Practice (1924), Socialism and the next Labour Government (1925), Labour's Future at Stake (1932), Britain's Political Future (1934), and Peace in Our Time (1936), in addition to many articles in newspapers and reviews.
Suffering from a complete breakdown in 1938, Allen of Hurtwood was taken to Switzerland, and died at Montana-Vermala 3 March 1939. After cremation his ashes, at his own request, were scattered in the Lake of Geneva. His only child was a daughter and the peerage therefore became extinct.
A portrait of Allen of Hurtwood, by Colin Gill, is at Hurtwood House, Albury, Guildford.
The Times, 4 March 1939
Contributor: J. S. Middleton.