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Object: Portrait of William George Roberts

This image has No Known Copyright Restrictions.

Title Portrait of William George Roberts
Production Berry & Co (photography studio), 1916, Wellington
Medium summary black and white glass negative
Materials photographic gelatin, sheet glass, silver, photographic plates
Classification studio portraits, portraits, black-and-white negatives, gelatin dry plate negatives
Technique black-and-white photography
Format half plate (1/2)
Credit line Purchased 1998 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds
Registration number B.043856

Portrait of William George Roberts.

The young man shown here is Private William George Roberts, service number 20236, of the 16th Reinforcements, NZEF. The photograph was probably taken shortly before he embarked  from Wellington for overseas service on 19 August 1916.

George was born at Petone on 24 October 1895. When he enlisted, he was living with his mother at 8 Hopper Street, Wellington, a short walk away from Berry & Co.'s studio in Cuba Street.  He worked as a typewriter mechanic for the Remington & Roneo Agency in the city.  He was 20 years and 5 months old when he was medically examined on 23 March 1916 and passed as 'Fit' for military service.  He signed his attestation papers at Trentham Camp on 2 May, noting that he had been rejected for service at some earlier date as 'Physically unfit'.

William trained with  'F' Company of the 16th Reinforcements in New Zealand and when he arrived at Sling Camp in England on 26 October was posted to 'C' Company of the Rifle Brigade's 5th Reserve Battalion. He left Sling for France on 15 November.  He served with 'H' Company of the Rifle Brigade's 3rd Battalion from 7 December 1916 to 6 August 1917, when he was detached for 20 days to the 2nd Field Company of the New Zealand Engineers.  William was on leave in the United Kingdom from 21 October to 5 November 1917, and in Paris from 26 February  to 11 March 1918.   He was promoted Lance-Corporal on 28 March. On 21 April he fell sick and admitted to hospital. The abbreviated diagnosis on his file was 'ICT chest wall', which may refer to pleurisy.  He rejoined his unit on 29 April, but on 3 May was back in hospital for a day to be treated for boils on his back.  On 25 June he was sent to the 3rd Field Ambulance for dental treatment and on 30 June relinquished his rank of Lance-Corporal at his own request.

William received a gun shot wound to his neck on 1 August 1918 and taken the same day from a Casualty Clearing Station to a Canadian hospital at Doullens. He was transferred to hospital in Boulogne on 2 August, to a convalescent depot at Hardelot on 5 September and to No. 5 Rest Camp at Exault on 18 September. He was at the Rifle Brigade's Depot at Etaples on 20 September, then went on leave to the United Kingdom on 12 October, rejoining his unit on 5 November.

William left England on the return voyage to New Zealand on 12 April 1919 and was discharged from the NZEF on 27 June.  He had returned to his mother's home and his job as a typewriter mechanic. 

On 22 February 1921 at Brooklyn,  Wellington, William married Fanny Barbara Hazel Cook.  When he re-enlisted in the Army on 2 July 1940 for service with the infantry in the Second World War, he was still working as a typewriter mechanic and living in the Wellington suburb of Ngaio.  He served with the Army in New Zealand  until his discharge on 11 May 1942.

William died at Wellington on 18 May 1964.

I know who this is

The Berry Boys
During World War I, around 120 Kiwi soldiers had their photograph taken at Wellington’s Berry & Co photography studio before they left New Zealand to fight in the war . These portraits are now in Te Papa’s collection.

In the lead-up to the World War I centenary (2014-18), Te Papa is working to identify these soldiers and the loved ones they are pictured with. We want to make contact with their descendants, and to record their stories.

Some soldiers have already been identified. For others, we only have the surname etched on the glass negative.

Contact us
If you have any information you can share about the Berry Boys - either a soldier or someone they are photographed with - please use the online form above. You can also email or leave a phone message for us on 04 381 7129. You can also write to Berry Boys Project Team, Te Papa, PO Box 467, Wellington 6140.

To aid identification, please be sure to include the Te Papa registration number (B.044366, for example) for the photo in question.

Related information

Disclaimer: This information was created from historic documentation, and may not necessarily reflect the best available knowledge about the item. Some collection images are created for identification purposes only and may not be of reproduction quality. Some images are not available due to copyright restrictions. If you have information or questions about objects in the collection, contact us using our enquiry form. You can also find out more about Collections Online.