The restoration of a remarkable piece of World War I history was quietly celebrated in Gunnedah.

The exquisite stain glass window was originally located in the Milliwindi Church near Manilla and constructed in memory of two soldiers from the area, Private Lesley Watts and Private Bert Watts.

The young men died only weeks apart in English hospitals during the war.

The grieving parents were William and Phoebe Watts of Wongo Creek via Manilla who also gave a third son, Reginald, to the war effort. He was wounded on Gallipoli and returned to Australia in November 1915 with one hand missing. Reginald died about 20 years later in 1938.

Losing two sons broke William emotionally so he had a memorial window installed in his local church and bought a house in Manilla in 1920.

The parents left the farm in 1921 and William died in May 1926.

Elaine Archibald from Gunnedah, who is the niece to Watts brothers, recovered the window in the 1980s when the church was sold to a local landholder.


The window sat in storage for years until recently when the Archibald family engaged a specialist craftsman in Lismore to restore the unique item.

Gunnedah Woodworkers Club also helped design and create a mounting frame with back lighting – restoring the historic church window to its former glory.

Elaine’s husband Kel said the craftsmanship of the restored window and new frame is second to none.

“They did an excellent job, the quality of work is outstanding,” he said.

Elaine agreed and considered it important that history is saved for benefit of future generations.

“If not preserved, it’s gone forever,” she said.

The frame was designed by Tony Blake from the Gunnedah Woodworkers Club and hand crafted by Dan Birkett.

Mr Birkett, a veteran himself, described the project as “a labour of love” for all involved.

He said the club was honoured to assist in recognition of those who have given their lives in service for their nation. The original Milliwindi Church, St Mathews, was built near the Namoi

River in 1905 and was later moved away from the Keepit Dam area in 1951. The last service was held in the early 1980s before it was sold to a local landholder in 1984.

The Archibalds have since donated the restored window to the local museum in Manilla.

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