Walter Hinds Allen was born in Newton Highlands, Massachusetts, on 9 January 1875, son of Walter Allen, an Acting Assistant Pay master, US Navy, and Mrs. Grace Mason Weston Allen. He was a descendant of early Massachusetts pioneers, two of his ancestors having come to the United States in the Mayflower. He received his early education from New Haven, Connecticut, schools, graduating from high school there in 1891. He was graduated from Yale College with the Bachelor of Arts degree in 1895; Sheffield Scientific School with the degree of Bachelor of Philosophy in 1896; and was a Larned Scholar at Yale Graduate School from 1895 to 1898.
He served as a Seaman and Acting Naval Cadet in the US Volunteer Navy in the Spanish-American War, with duty aboard the Gunboat Dolphin. From 1898 to 1903 he was engaged in Railroad Engineering in New England (Boston, Massachusetts, and New Haven, Connecticut), and in Durango and Chiahuahua, Mexico.
Commissioned Civil Engineer in the US Navy on 27 June 1903, he was assigned first to the Navy Yard, New York, and from 1906 to 1909 he served in the Public Works Department of the Navy Yard, Charleston, South Carolina. He next had a year's duty in the Bureau of Yards and Docks, Navy Department, Washington, DC and in January 1912 returned to the Navy Yard, New York, for a second tour of duty.
During the period November 1913 to March 1916, he was on Asiatic Station, assigned as a Civil Engineer to the Naval Station, Olongapo, PI. Completing his tour there, he returned home for further duty at the New York Yard, where he was serving in the Public Works Department when the United States entered World War I. Early in 1918 he was transferred to duty as Public Works Officer at the Naval Station, Great Lakes, Illinois, and remained on duty there with collateral duty in command of the Twelfth Regiment (Public Works), the only regiment of its kind in the US Navy throughout the war period, and until 1921. This was the origin of the present "Seabees."
During the next three years he had duty at the Navy Yard, Philadelphia, and in the Fourth Naval District, and from 1924 to 1926 served similarly at the Navy Yard, Bremerton, and in the Thirteenth Naval District. He had a four year tour of duty at the Naval Operating Base, Hampton Roads, Virginia, and the Fifth Naval District. In June 1930 he returned to the Bureau of Yards and Docks, Navy Department, for duty until November 1936 as Head of the Design Division, and later as Head of the Procurement Planning Division.
Ordered next to the Twelfth Naval District, he served as District Public Works Officer with Headquarters at San Francisco, California, until his death there on 19 April 1938.