Wellington Cathedral of St Paul memorials

Wellington Cathedral of St Paul memorials Wellington Cathedral of St Paul memorials Wellington Cathedral of St Paul memorials Wellington Cathedral of St Paul memorials Wellington Cathedral of St Paul memorials Wellington Cathedral of St Paul memorials Wellington Cathedral of St Paul memorials Wellington Cathedral of St Paul memorials Wellington Cathedral of St Paul memorials Wellington Cathedral of St Paul memorials Wellington Cathedral of St Paul memorials Wellington Cathedral of St Paul memorials Wellington Cathedral of St Paul memorials Wellington Cathedral of St Paul memorials Wellington Cathedral of St Paul memorials Wellington Cathedral of St Paul memorials Wellington Cathedral of St Paul memorials Wellington Cathedral of St Paul memorials Wellington Cathedral of St Paul memorials

There is a striking set of war memorial windows in the chancel of the Wellington Cathedral of St Paul. It is little-known that at one time a far more substantial memorial was planned.

In 1907 the Wellington Anglican diocese acquired land for a cathedral not far from the Basin Reserve. In July 1917 the Anglican synod approved preliminary plans drawn up by the architect Frank Peck for an elaborate Gothic structure on the site. The cathedral was envisaged at the time as a memorial to those who had fallen in the war and as a thanks offering for those who survived. It was to include a military memorial chapel in the west wing, where the names of all New Zealanders irrespective of church or creed who had fallen in the South African and First World wars would be displayed in letters of gold.

Fundraising for what was sometimes referred to as the ‘Wellington Memorial Cathedral’ began the following year. In 1920 Rev. C.F. Askew of the Wellington Cathedral Fund even went on a trip to England hoping to raise money for the chapel (he collected more flags and war trophies than cash). In 1923 the synod decided the original plans were too costly to proceed with.

In 1937, a fresh start was made. It was decided to make the Cathedral a national centennial project. A new architect was selected (Cecil Wood). A new site was acquired, this time in Molesworth Street, near Parliament Buildings. Construction was delayed by the war and its aftermath, and ultimately the project took more than half-a-century to complete: the foundation stone was laid by Queen Elizabeth II on 13th January 1954; the first stage was dedicated on 17th May 1964; the second stage was dedicated on 5 November 1972; the completed building was dedicated on 31 May 1998 and was consecrated on 15 October 2001; finally, on 24 February 2002, the Queen unveiled the consecration stone.

Although plans for a military chapel had been abandoned along the way, the cathedral authorities did allow for the installation of three sets of memorial windows in the chancel, allocating two lancets each to the Army, Navy and Air Force. These windows were paid for by public subscription.

Fundraising for the Air Force windows began in September 1957. Designed by the English artist, Edward Liddall Armitage, these were installed in April 1962. They are dedicated to the members of the Royal New Zealand Air Force and New Zealanders who died in the service of the air forces of the Commonwealth during World War II.

The four remaining windows were designed by New Zealander Howard Malitte and adapted for stained glass by Brian Thomas, who had previously designed windows in St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. Governor-General Brigadier Sir Bernard Fergusson unveiled the Army memorial windows on 9 August 1966. They stand on either side of the organ loft, with the memorial tablet placed on the wall to the left of the Bishop’s chair (“The two windows above this tablet were installed by serving and former members of the New Zealand Army to commemorate those who have served in the New Zealand Army at home and abroad since the foundation of our country …”).

The naval and merchant service windows were unveiled on 22 October 1967. They were dedicated in memory of the men and women who lost their lives in the navies and merchant services of the Commonwealth during the two world wars.

All six windows incorporate a rich visual symbolism. The Army windows, for instance, include depictions of the crucifixion and resurrection; symbolic scenes in New Zealand and in wartime overseas; the emblems of St Paul and St George; the coats of arms of New Zealand and of Baron Freyberg; the NZ Army’s crest and general service badges, along with the names of the principal theatres of war in which New Zealand forces have fought; the badges of NZ Army regiments, corps, departments and associations, including ex-service associations; orders, decorations for valour and campaign medals won by army members (up to and including Malaysia).

Another memorial inside the cathedral, installed in 1998, commemorates the Battle of Chunuk Bair at Gallipoli in August 1915. White stone in the centre of the memorial wall is from the New Zealand Memorial at Chunuk Bair, while there are two plaques inscribed with the following quotes from Lieutenant-Colonel William Malone, commander of the Wellington Battalion during the battle, and Süleyman Demirel, President of Turkey (1993-2000):

I AM PREPARED FOR DEATH AND HOPE THAT GOD WILL HAVE FORGIVEN ME ALL MY SINS. MY DESIRE FOR LIFE – SO THAT I MAY SEE AND BE WITH YOU AGAIN – COULD NOT BE GREATER BUT I HAVE ONLY DONE WHAT EVERY MAN WAS BOUND TO DO IN OUR COUNTRY’S NEED. IT HAS BEEN A GREAT CONSOLATION TO ME THAT YOU APPROVED MY ACTION, THE SACRIFICE WAS REALLY YOURS. MAY YOU BE CONSOLED AND REWARDED BY OUR DEAR LORD. / LT. COL. WG MALONE

THE LAND AND ROCKS OF OUR COUNTRY ARE SACRED TO US. WE HAVE HAPPILY ARGREED TO REMOVE A PIECE OF ROCK AS A SYMBOL OF GOODWILL OF THE TURKISH PEOPLE TO THE FALLEN ANZAC SOLDIERS. IT IS A TOKEN OF THE RESPECT AND AFFECTION THAT THE TURKISH PEOPLE NURTURE TOWARDS THE PEOPLE OF NEW ZEALAND. / SULEMAN DEMIREL, PRESIDENT OF TURKEY

 In August 2015, eleven red ‘remembrance’ poppies were added to the Chunuk Bair memorial to represent the eleven chaplains who have died as a result of war service. A single white ‘peace’ poppy was added as a sign of hope for the future.

There are at least two further war memorial plaques in the cathedral: one unveiled by the Normandy Veterans Association of NZ Inc. on the fiftieth anniversary of the Normandy landings, and another installed in memory of all who served in the 14th New Zealand Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment 2NZEF in Egypt, North Africa and Italy. A range of memorial flags is also housed in the western tower.

Sources: ‘Memorial Cathedral: A Wellington Proposal’, NZ Herald, 18/7/1917, p. 8; ‘Memorial to the Fallen: Wellington Military Chapel’, Waikato Times, 14/7/1921, p. 6; ‘The Cathedral: “Too Ambitious”, Evening Post, 3/7/1923, p. 7;  ‘The Cathedral: Original Plans Considered’, Evening Post, 9/7/1923, p. 5;  [etc.]; ‘Memorial to Air Force Dead’, Auckland Star, 14/9/1957; ‘£25,000 Raised for Memorial to Air Dead’, Auckland Star, 22/11/1957; ‘Memorial to New Zealand Airmen’, NZ Herald, 27/4/1962; ‘Memorial to Army and Lord Freyberg’, NZ Herald, 15/11/1963; Sylvia Cavanagh and Judy Bradwell, Wellington Cathedral of St Paul, Wellington, 1999, Michael Blain, Wellington Cathedral: A History, 1840-2001, Wellington, 2002; The New Zealand Army Memorial Windows [pamphlet available from the cathedral];‘Chunuk Bair memorial’, Wellington Cathedral of St Paul: https://wellingtoncathedral.org.nz/chunk-bair-memorial/; ‘Chancel’, Wellington Cathedral of St Paul: https://wellingtoncathedral.org.nz/chancel/  

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