New Zealand and the First World War





The Allen Brothers 



Auckland Star 23 June 1919







The two soldier-brothers, Lieutenant- Colonels S . S. and R. C. Allen, both famous New Zealand battalion commanders, bearing the Insignia of a double D.S.0. and of many honourable wounds, were given the heartiest kind of welcome to-day by returned men who had served under them.

The two officers both landed from the Waimana this morning, and the ceremony took place on the Queen's wharf during the lunch-hour. It had been organised in the first place to honour Lieut.-Colonel S. S. Allen, who, through some of its most strenuous years, commanded the Second Auckland Battalion.


A body of between one and two hundred men of the battalion mustered on the wharf around a couple of large flags bearing the familiar device of a red diamond on a black ground, and marched to a rostrum, which had been erected in a convenient space and a large crowd was soon gathering.


When Colonel S. S. Allen mounted the rostrum in company with Major C. S. White, someone called for three cheers for "Old Steve," and these were heartily given. Major White, addressing the Colonel, said that the already returned members of the 2nd Auckland Battalion had met to welcome home their old Commanding Officer after four years of war.

They had had the honour to be under his command in France and Flanders, and in meeting him again they called to mind the great battle names of the Somme, Messines, Passchendaele, Mailly Maillet, La Signy Farm, Grevillers, Crevecoeur, and Le Quesnoy. In the same way they brought to remembrance the many hundreds of their comrades in the battalion who would never come back.


Their welcome to Colonel Allen was not a recognition so much of his rank, as a personal tribute to his character as a man and a leader of fighting men. He was the central figure of the battalion, and that, not merely, through his official position and the badges of rank that he wore.

For steadfastness, devotion to duty, valour, and consideration for those serving under him they had not seen a better. "We trust” said Major White that now that you have returned to New Zealand you will have a long and prosperous life. We feel certain that in the future, as in the past, your name will be well known among the men that come. You are a great New Zealander, and we honour you as such. In conclusion, Major White expressed the hope that some arrangement might be made whereby members of the battalion might meet in Auckland every year to renew old friendships and recall the experiences they had passed through.





 Colonel Allen, (SS), (who was greeted with more cheers) said that he was more than pleased to see so many familiar faces from amongst those who had once served under him. 'The only thing that surprises me, he went on, is that so many are here. It looks as if Captain Watson, and the military police have not been doing their duty, or else you have been so long away that the civil police haven't found out so much about you as I know." (Much laughter.) He thanked Major White for his kind remarks, but added that the major must have been rather carried away by his own eloquence, for he had mentioned battles which he, the speaker, was never in.


The officers and men of the Second Auckland Battalion, though he said it himself, had brought home with them a very fair record, and looking back he could fairly say that they had been in more fighting than any other New Zealand battalion, which was saying a good deal. He thought the idea of an annual reunion a good one, for in that way they could meet and exchange stories which would grow more and more marvellous as the years went on. No one would be able to contradict those stories for fear of bringing disbelief on his own tales. (Laughter). He hoped to see all his men from time to time. He had always thought a lot of the old battalion, and it was rather a wrench when the time came to break it up. However, peace was better than war, and like them he was glad to get back to New Zealand. He thanked them sincerely for their kindness in coming to welcome him.




 Captain J. G. Coates, M.C and Bar, M.P, then induced Colonel R. C. Allen to mount the platform and addressing the assembly as "ladies, gentlemen, and diggers," remarked that although a good deal had been said about the deeds of the 2nd Auckland Battalion, the 1st Auckland Battalion, when "Colonel Bob" commanded it was “the fiercest thing on earth," and the Colonel's exploits with it would be long remembered.


After doing great work at Messines, Colonel Allen came back to New Zealand with his arm in a sling, but before long was back again in France, and at Bellesmes was wounded in the leg.

It was a fact that the P.M.0., (Medical Officer) Colonel Hardie Neil, was compelled to sign a document stating that the Colonel was not to be sent out of France, and within a few days he was back in the line. Afterwards, as commander of the first "Dinks," he took Le Quesnoy. He had shown a fine example as an officer and a man. His work was not yet done, for he was wanted in New Zealand. There were great things to be done, and the help of men with the qualities he had shown was needed if this country was to be made the happy and prosperous place which they all desired it to be. He congratulated him on the honours that had been awarded him long after they were due. These honours, he added, were cherished by the men who had served under Colonel Allen. (RC). They simply swore by him, he said, and they valued him as a comrade and a man.

Colonel Allen, in a short reply, said that he was not a speech-maker like Captain Coates, to whom he paid a tribute as the most distinguished fighter in the battalion. He hoped, he said, to meet most of his old command privately later on.


After more cheering, both officers were lifted shoulder high, and so photographed for purposes of record. Colonel S, S. Allen was then carried in the same fashion down the wharf and deposited in front of the G.P.0. Later the two brothers were placed in a motor car, which was pulled up to the Grand Hotel with ropes by a large body of returned soldiers.




*Lt Col S.S. Allen wearing 6 Hauraki Badge and his brother R.C. Allen wearing 16th Waikato badge while among the crowd are seen badges of all four Infantry Regiments that made up the ‘Auckland Regiment’ of the Great War.

*Captain J G Coates of Matakohe Northland, later Prime Minister of New Zealand and a member of the War Cabinet of WWII.

* Major C.S. White enlisted from Helensville later Commanding officer of the North Auckland Regiment and later Honorary Colonel.






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