A Window To Wartime

A New Zealand wartime leader's tribute to his son who died at Gallipoli tells a deeper story of loss and regret.

Window On A Life
Voices of the First World War

All Saints' Anglican Church stands in a quiet corner of Dunedin in New Zealand’s South Island.

Built in 1865 it is the city’s oldest church still used as a place of worship.

The congregation is a vibrant mix of ages and interests.

Countless couples have gathered here to marry, brought their babies to be baptised.

It’s where morning teas are shared, friendships formed and comfort given during times of loss.

Gallipoli campaign 'ill-conceived and mad'
Gallipoli campaign 'ill-conceived and mad'
Voices of the First World War

As with many churches, the walls of All Saints’ are graced with a collection of beautiful stained-glass windows.

One window, in particular, on the north side wall of the nave reminds regular worshipers and visitors of one family’s connection to the parish - and their sacrifice to country.

Known as the ‘John Allen window’ it portrays the short life of a local man, Lieutenant John Allen, who died in 1915 in the Gallipoli campaign in Turkey.

John was the son of Sir James Allen, who as Minister of Defence, helped plan and administer New Zealand’s World War I strategy, which saw 100,000 troops sent to fight.

With the war over and his son dead, Sir James chose to honour John’s sacrifice by installing a beautiful stained-glass window in All Saints’, a place with which the Allen family had strong ties.

Sir James and his family commissioned the window from a leading British glassmaker during his tenure as New Zealand High Commissioner to the United Kingdom after the war.

Divided into two panels, one depicts St George, the patron saint of soldiers, standing above a scene of khaki-clad servicemen at the Gallipoli landing, while the other panel has an angel of peace standing above a scene of a university scholar.

Across the bottom of the window is the coat of arms of Jesus College, University of Cambridge, where John Allen studied, along with the words, ‘John Hugh Allen, Gallipoli, 6th June, 1915’.

A kauri pine is delicately interlaced with an oak tree, while local birds including a native pigeon and a morepork fly or perch on the branches and a kiwi walks at the bottom - reminders that John was a lover of birds.

In private, years later, Sir James reportedly described the Gallipoli campaign as “ill-conceived and mad”

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