Mys­tery over Grey­town’s un­known sol­dier


‘‘I would think about it ev­ery so of­ten and worry I hadn’t done enough to find out who he was.’’

A tat­tered old photo of a proud young sol­dier found in a Grey­town garage has a new lease on life as an ob­ject of cu­rios­ity.

Wairarapa woman Glenda Wen­den was handed the dis­coloured and worn photo by an ac­quain­tance about 20 years ago and al­ways won­dered who he was and what hap­pened to him.

‘‘They told me they thought it was a mem­ber of my hus­band’s fam­ily be­cause they had found the photo in the garage of his old fam­ily home on Main Street in Grey­town.’’

Not hav­ing the means or knowhow to re­search it Wen­den largely for­got about the pic­ture, though ev­ery now and again she would re­gret that she hadn’t found out the mys­tery man’s story.

‘‘I would think about it ev­ery so of­ten and worry I hadn’t done enough to find out who he was and as time passed I thought there was less chance I would be able to find out.

‘‘Sadly the only thing writ­ten on the back of the photo is a 10 cen­time­tre squig­gle mark, like some­one has marked it off or some­thing. There is no other writ­ing.’’

Ear­lier this year Wen­den de­cided to pass the photo on to Carter­ton his­tory buff Adele Pentony-Gra­ham. She pleas via so­cial me­dia and other av­enues but has so far found noth­ing that sheds any light on the sol­dier’s iden­tity.

Now though there is new hope af­ter the photo was sent to lead­ing New Zealand mil­i­tary his­to­rian Neil Frances.

He said the in­trigu­ing, hand­coloured photo was taken by a pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­pher ei­ther just prior to World War 1 or dur­ing the war years.

The sol­dier was most likely a mounted ri­fle­man as he was in pos­ses­sion of a Lee-En­field SMLE ri­fle along with what looked to be a No.1 bay­o­net with a 17-inch­blade and spurs on his boots, Frances said.

‘‘The head­gear looks like a slouch hat, as op­posed to a lemon- squeezer, one side is partly-turned up, but not pinned-up. I can’t see any hat or lapel badges so the unit would be hard to iden­tify.

‘‘The bell tent be­hind was the stan­dard army tent and there is not enough of the land­scape to sug­gest a lo­ca­tion. It could be Tauherenikau Camp, Tren­tham, Pa­pawai or Can­vas Camp.

‘‘Or it may be a pre-war photo of a ter­ri­to­rial mounted ri­fle­man taken at one of the large camps held just be­fore WW1. It looks like a pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­pher took it and the hand-colour­ing also sug­gests a pro­fes­sional treat­ment.’’

If any­one recog­nises the man or has any fur­ther in­for­ma­tion on the photo email illya.mclel­

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