Harry Bernard Allen

Harry Bernard Allen

One of Britain's last official executioners
Date of Birth: 05.11.1911
Country: Great Britain

Biography of Harry Bernard Allen

Harry Bernard Allen was one of the last official executioners in the United Kingdom, serving from 1940 to 1964. He conducted 29 executions as the chief hangman and 53 as an assistant in various prisons in London, Manchester, and Leeds. Born on November 5, 1911, in Denaby Main, West Yorkshire, Allen was raised in Ashton-under-Lyne and received his education at a Roman Catholic school. After completing his education, he worked in the transportation service and later became a bus driver for Ashton Corporation until 1940.

Harry Bernard Allen

Allen married his first wife, Marjorie Clayton, in 1933. During this time, he attempted to join Her Majesty's Prison Service but was initially denied. However, his persistence paid off, and he was eventually included on the list of executioners by the Home Office, often serving as an assistant to Tom Pierrepoint, Albert Pierrepoint's uncle. Allen conducted his first execution at the age of 29 on November 26, 1940, at Bedford Prison. He described it as "very good and clean work, not as horrible as I imagined."

In addition to his role as an executioner, Allen also owned a bar in Farnworth during this time. However, a significant event in 1945 deeply affected him. Five Nazi prisoners of war were hanged for the murder of a German soldier who had betrayed them by revealing their escape plan. This event shook Allen to the core, as he considered it a brutal murder. However, it marked the last time he was deeply affected by an execution.

On July 11, 1958, Allen conducted his first execution as the chief executioner, coinciding with the departure of his first wife. He remarried in 1963 to Doris Dyke. In 1964, hanging as a method of execution was abolished in the United Kingdom. Allen and his wife moved to Fleetwood in 1977 to avoid unwanted attention and settled into a new life. He worked as a cashier until his death on August 14, 1992, just a month after Albert Pierrepoint's passing.

Throughout his career, Allen always wore a bowtie during executions as a tribute to the profession and to mark the significance of the moment. He claimed to have never felt remorse and always slept well, both before and after executions. Allen believed that hanging was the most rapid and humane method of execution, with the entire process from the death cell to completion taking only 30 seconds or less, resulting in almost instantaneous death.

In September 2008, a book titled "Harry Allen: The Last British Hangman" was published, revealing that Allen had kept a diary documenting the dates of imprisonment, executions, and the manner in which the condemned individuals died. The diary also included details such as age, height, weight, and calculations for rope length. In November 2008, the diary and other personal belongings of the executioner were auctioned in Knutsford, Cheshire, with the consent of his widow, raising a total of £17,200.