Title / object name
Portrait of John Owen Clay
|Maker ||Date |
|Berry & Co ||circa 1916 |
photographic gelatin, sheet glass, silver, photographic plates
|180 (Height) x 163 (Length)|
half plate (1/2)Classification
studio portraits, portraits, black-and-white negatives, gelatin dry plate negatives
Purchased 1998 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds
This studio portrait shows Private John Owen Clay, service number 10133, dressed in World War One military uniform and wearing a ‘Type 1’ bandolier with the rounded flaps, as was worn by the ‘Mounted Rifles’. The photo was taken at the Berry Co. photographers in Wellington, a well-known studio established in 1897 by William Berry. Many servicemen had their photos taken while on leave or before they left to fight in World War One.
John was in the Canterbury Infantry Battalion, 11th Reinforcements. He was 28 years old when he attested for service in 1915 at Trentham, where he had been working for New Zealand Railways. He embarked for Europe on 1 April 1916 and had by this stage been promoted to Sergeant.
He fought extensively in France where he was wounded several times. His medical records show that he was treated for injuries in Alexandria and Etaples. His last record of active service was The Somme in 1916. 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.
The identification of people in the Berry Co photos is an ongoing project. If you have any information about the soldiers or other people in this collection we would like to hear from you. Please contact a history curator through our enquiry centre 04 381 7000 or email@example.com