Colonel (Retd) Andy Allen MBE
Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
1984 – 2015
As an Army Cadet, Andy had a genuine interest in the Regular Army. Yet Andy explains ‘what really inspired me was the opportunity to be different and embark on a career that was alien to my family’. He wanted a life of full of ‘adventures that a young black Londoner could only dream of’.
After attending Sandhurst, Andy joined the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) and during his REME Young Officers’ training course, he won ‘Best Young REME Officer’ of his intake. Andy says that for him, that was the start of being ‘the first’.
‘One of my secret career challenges was to be the first black British born Regular Army Colonel, and when I was promoted to Colonel in 2008, I think I was? So, at every rank, I stretched myself more. And when I got to Colonel, I wanted to be the first black Brigadier – sadly this was not to be and I resigned from the Army in 2015.’
As a professional engineer, who specialised in helicopters and guided weapons, Andy obtained a BEng, MSC and an MA during his service. He is also a Chartered Engineer, Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and on the Board of Trustees to the Royal Aeronautical Society.
In 1999, as a Major, Andy had the honour of being awarded an MBE by HM The Queen. During his career, Andy served in UK, Germany, Hong Kong, Iraq and Afghanistan and held many key appointments, each with a considerable degree of responsibility. One such role was Deputy Chief of the Iraqi Security Forces in 2008, training and preparing Iraqi security personnel for when they took governance of Iraq.
Sporting achievements include, qualifying as a Sub Aqua Dive Leader, gaining international rugby honours playing for Hong Kong, qualifying as a ski instructor and becoming Director of Senior Army Rugby – attending the 2011 Rugby World Cup in NZ in this role.
As a Colonel and Chief Air Engineer/Assistant Director Operational Support in the Joint Helicopter Command, Andy would routinely visit different Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force aviation sites to check that all the manpower was in place, that the engineering standards were being maintained and that the logistics were running smoothly.
Looking back at his career, Andy recalls in the early stages he was strangely more concerned about being an officer from a working-class background than being black. He says ‘Of course there was overt racism, but thankfully times have changed and there is some really good work the Army is doing with regards to understanding its challenges and supporting its BAME community. There are now senior officers who are BAME Champions, a recognised Army BAME Network and two, yes two, black Brigadiers! And hopefully one day the Army will have its first black Major General’.
^ Andy Allen in 2021
^ Then 2Lt Andy Allen on the No 86 Regular Young Officers’ Course
Andy Allen in the Army Cadet Force – 74 Cadet Company RRF (Tulse Hill London)
^ Andy Allen – Officer Cadet at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst
Awarded an MBE in 1999
Colonel (Retd) Andy Allen MBE Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers 1984 – 2015