Berry Boys: First in, first served

Copy of a portrait of John Jessen, 1916-1919, Wellington. Berry & Co. Purchased 1998 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. Te Papa

Copy of a portrait of John Jessen, 1916-1919, Wellington. Berry & Co. Purchased 1998 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. Te Papa

Early enlister

John Jessen (above) was the first of the soldiers photographed by Berry & Co to enlist for service. The 23-year-old signed up on 8 August 1914, just two days after the Defence Department invited single men between the ages of 20 and 35, weighing not more than 12 stone (76kg), to volunteer for active service. With a service number of 2/1, John was quite possibly the first volunteer in the Wellington region. He initially served with the Samoan Advance Party, which headed off to seize the German colony on 15 August. The cartoon on the postcard below expresses a common view of the invasion.

Postcard, ’Samoa Yielded without a Struggle.’, 1914, New Zealand. The New Zealand Observer, Blomfield, William. Purchased 2011. Te Papa

Postcard, ’Samoa Yielded without a Struggle.’, 1914, New Zealand. The New Zealand Observer, Blomfield, William. Purchased 2011. Te Papa

Second serving

John returned to New Zealand in March 1915 and was discharged from the army, but re-enlisted later in the year. He left for the Western Front with the 14th Reinforcements in June 1916.

Proxy portrait

The portrait of John was taken at an unknown studio. However, someone in Wellington, perhaps a member of the Jessen family, took the print to Berry & Co in Cuba Street Wellington for it to be re-photographed. This accounts for the glass plate negative being in the Berry & Co collection. The practice of making copy prints was quite common during World War I. When a soldier sent a photo home from overseas, copying allowed multiple copies of a single photograph to be made and distributed when the original negative was not available.

 

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