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Object: Portrait of John Owen Clay

This image has No Known Copyright Restrictions.

Title Portrait of John Owen Clay
Production Berry, William, 1915, Wellington
Materials photographic gelatin, sheet glass, silver, photographic plates
Classification studio portraits, portraits, black-and-white negatives, gelatin dry plate negatives
Format half plate (1/2)
Credit line Purchased 1998 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds
Registration number B.046140

John Owen Clay, service number 10133

Born in Melbourne, Australia, railway worker John Clay was twenty-eight years old when he attested for military service on 23 August 1915 at Trentham.

John is depicrted wearing the uniform of a Trooper in the Mounted Rifles.

John's first posting was to the 8th Mounted Rifles, transferring on 28 November to the 11th Mounted Rifles. He was promoted to Corporal on 2 December and to Sergeant on 20 January 1916.

However, his active war service was not to be with the cavalry. He embarked on 1 April 1916 with the 11th Reinforcements, and on arrival in Egypt was posted to the 1st Battalion, Canterbury Infantry Regiment as a Private.

John was sent with his Regiment to France, where he fought in the Battle of the Somme.

This was New Zealand's first major engagement on the Western Front, beginning with an advance across 'No Man's Land' on 15 September. The NZ Division fought for 19 consecutive days and suffered 7000 casualties with 1500 men killed - all for an advance of some eight kilometres.

John survived this battle but was seriously injured with a 'compound fracture of the skull', that occurred on 25 September 1916. His military medical report states, 'While in a bayonet charge he was struck by a bullet, sustaining an extensive depression over posterior frontal region.'  After a period of recovery he was discharged from service in April 1917.

John lived in the Wellington region after the war. He married Bridget Firth in 1933 who owned the Western Park Hotel in Wellington. It appears that John worked in the hotel and as a railway worker until he retired in 1946. They had a son also called John Owen Clay. 

John died at the Silverstream Hospital in July 1968 aged eighty-one.


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