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Object: Portrait of Charles Vandersluys

This image is No known copyright restriction.

Title Portrait of Charles Vandersluys
Production Berry & Co (photography studio), 1917-1918, Wellington
Medium summary black and white glass negative
Materials photographic gelatin, silver, sheet glass, photographic plates
Classification black-and-white negatives, gelatin dry plate negatives, 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.045243

Sergeant Major Charles Vandersluys, serial number 33008 

This is a portrait of Charles Calab Vandersluys in his army uniform.

Vandersluys was born on the 22nd August 1871 in Hanwell, Middlesex, England. His father was a soldier in the British Army, and later worked as a clerk in the Pension Office.

On 3rd or 4th of September 1893, Vandersluys married Florence Letitia Ayres in Dublin. On his return to England he joined the Gordon Highlanders, a British Army infantry regiment drawn mainly from Scotland and the north of England. Vandersluys served twelve years and 120 days with this regiment, including service during the second Boer War in South Africa (South African War). After peace was declared he was discharged on the 15th September 1902. He then joined section D of the Gordon Highlanders Reserve in January 1903. Four years later, he completed his service but remained living in London where he was employed driving meat vans and buses.

In 1910, Vandersluys and his wife travelled to Buenos Aires, where, apart from occasional trips to England, they lived for around three years. They returned to England in July 1914, and then travelled to Australia, taking a 3rd-class passage on the SS Ruahine, departing on the 10th August 1914, under the name of Berrold. Their son (Charles Alfred Roland, b. 1st March 1894) and three daughters (Florence Letitia, b. 21st March 1895; Grace Matilda and Elizabeth Maria, twins b. 18th January 1896) remained in England. After six months in Australia, the couple moved on to New Zealand, where Vandersluys enlisted with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.

He served in the New Zealand Military Police for 288 days before being discharged on the 29th February 1916 in order to take up his appointment with the New Zealand Army Service Corps. Due to being over age and an attack of rheumatic fever, Vandersluys was unfit for active service. He served instead at Trentham Camp, rising from the rank of Private to Corporal in September 1916 and Sergeant in February 1917. In April 1917 he returned to the Military Police and to the rank of Private. On discharge in 1918 his final rank was recorded as Regimental Sergeant Major.

A case was brought against him in August 1918 by two recently discharged Privates, Fisher and Boosey. Private Fisher had recently been arrested for assaulting Vandersluys, although the man’s statement maintained that the Sergeant had in fact started a fight with him, and enlisted the help of two corporals to give false witness statements. He had then, along with his friend Private Boosey, been discharged as medically unfit to serve, in Fisher’s case due to shell-shock and mental disturbance. The two men decided to report that on the occasion of Fisher bringing Boosey to the military office to enlist, Vandersluys had made a disloyal remark, saying "The Germans are going to give the British all they asked for". After investigation, the detective in charge of the case recommended that no action be taken, as Vandersluys argued that his words had been misquoted and taken out of context, and there was no further evidence to suggest a disloyalty to the Allied forces.

Vandersluys was discharged from the Military Police on the 9th December 1918, giving him leave without pay. He and his wife were to sail on the Aryan, a cargo ship bound for America. On the ship, Charles Vandersluys was working as the cook and his wife a stewardess when there was a fire on board and the ship had to be abandoned. While some members of the crew were lost, Vandersluys and his wife were among the survivors who reached the Chatham Islands by boat and were then transported back to New Zealand by the Himemoa.

There seems to be no records for the deaths of Vandersluys or his wife in New Zealand, so they probably died outside the country. They left on a ship from Wellington on 20th January 1933 for Sydney and returned from Sydney to Wellington on the 19th March 1934 on the Makura.

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.