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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 & Co, 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

This studio portrait shows John Owen Clay, service number 10133.

John is wearing the uniform of a Trooper in the ‘Mounted Rifles. He was a railway worker, aged 28, when he attested for military service on 23 August 1915 at Trentham.

His first postings were to the Mounted Rifles. He was a Trooper in the 8th Mounted Rifles until 28 November, when he was transferred to the 11th Mounted Rifles, and 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.

He 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 23 consecutive days and suffered 7000 casualties with 1500 men killed.

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 81 years old.

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.