National Army Museum, Waiouru, New Zealand : Military History & Army War Museum

Distinguished Soldier Colonel Sir Stephen Allen

Colonel Sir Stephen Allen was a courageous and inspirational leader who was awarded the DSO (Distinguished Conduct Order) and Bar for his efforts at Passchendaele and later the Somme during World War I.

Col Sir Allen’s family recently decided to donate his medals following a visit to the Museum’s new Medal Repository by his granddaughter, Rebecca, who was so impressed she recommended to the rest of the family that the National Army Museum should become home for their treasures.

Both Rebecca, and her mother Elizabeth Macky, Allen’s daughter, were part of the formal opening of the Medal Repository and shared some of their family’s military history and anecdotes of Colonel Sir Stephen Allen.

Elizabeth recounted a story her father told her about when he was wounded during World War I and ended up in a Casualty Clearing Station only to be told the doctor had already visited that day and he would have to wait until tomorrow. He was concerned that if an officer was treated that way, how would his young men be treated.

Stephen Allen was the 7th son of 10 children and his family moved to New Zealand when he was 10 years old to take up farming in Morrinsville. Stephen returned to England and was educated at Cambridge University but later settled back in New Zealand practising law in Morrinsville where he became a wealthly landowner in his own right.

He joined the local Territorial Force in 1911 and around this time met local dentist Bernard C Freyberg, helping initiate his military career by persuading him to also join the unit. With his aristocratic bearing, his English accent, and a pronounced lisp, ‘Old Steve’ was a source of considerable merriment among his men, though they always respected his courage and leadership. As well as his time on the Western Front, Allen also served as a company commander in the Auckland Battalion at Gallipoli.

At the end of the war he was made a companion of the most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George and remained active in the Territorial forces. In 1928 he took over as Administrator in Western Samoa and had the difficult task of dealing with a nationalist movement, the ‘Mau’ who challenged the authority of his administration. His work in suppressing the Mau, was at times ill conceived and his methods especially in crushing a Mau riot in 1929, a dark chapter in his long career. However other aspects of his time in Samoa was better received and led to his appointment as a Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE).

At the outbreak of World War II, he was in England and secured a commission in the British Army. When consulted by Prime Minister Peter Fraser about Freyberg’s fitness for command of 2NZEF in November 1939, he enthusiastically endorsed his former subaltern, under whose command he was now serving. In March 1940 Allen became 2NZEF’s Military Secretary and he helped administer the Second Echelon in the United Kingdom. He later served in Greece and Crete and was mentioned in dispatches. After a distinguished career he became Minister of Home Security in Birmingham until late in 1942.

Throughout his life, he was known for a number of notable achievements. He was Mayor of Morrinsville (1927-28) and Grand Master of the Freemasons N.Z.C., (1948-50). A graduate in arts and law, he contributed papers to the Kipling Journal and published Early Morrinsville (1959). Unfortunately while driving near Maramarua on 4 November 1964 he suffered a heart attack and both he and his housekeeper were killed when his car left the road. He was survived by his daughter having lost his son in World War II and his wife in 1946 after a long illness.