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Object: Woman dressed as a Regimental Sergeant-Major of the NZ Rifle Brigade [inscribed Johnson]

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Title Woman dressed as a Regimental Sergeant-Major of the NZ Rifle Brigade [inscribed Johnson]
Production Berry & Co (photography studio), 1915 -19, Wellington
Medium summary black and white glass negative
Materials silver, photographic gelatin, sheet glass, photographic plates
Classification black-and-white negatives, gelatin dry plate negatives, studio portraits, portraits
Technique black-and-white photography
Format half plate (1/2)
Credit line Purchased 1998 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds
Registration number B.044278

This portrait features a woman, who wedding ring reveals she is married, dressed in a Regimental Sergeant-Major of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, and holding a sword. She is no doubt dressed for a patriotic fund-raising event.

'Mrs Johnson’s' uniform, however, is particularly puzzling. For while her cap features the insignia of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade associated with the First World War, the rest of her uniform appears to be of Boer War vintage. The sleeve insignia is that of a Boer War Regimental Sergeant Major, and the breeches are what is known as a ‘Calvary cut’.  She holds an officer’s sword, and while she has wrapped her calves in puttees she wears ladies shoes.

Where did ‘Mrs Johnson'  get hold of a Boer War uniform, along with an officer’s sword? Was she married to a man who had fought in the Boer War? A William Johnson, serial number is 4067, is recorded as having fought in South Africa, and was discharged to a Wellington address. In 1913 a William Johnson married Alice Maud Beighton (b. 1885) who would have been 30 in 1915. In 1914, another William Johnson married Catherina Eva Cross (b. 1892) who would have been 24 in 1915. Could she be Alice or Catherina?

If you have any clues regarding 'Mrs Johnson's' identity please email us at


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