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Soldier portraits leave historians perplexed

Published: 7:38PM Saturday November 02, 2013 Source: ONE News

  • Portrait of a woman dressed as a Regimental Sergeant-Major of the NZ Rifle Brigade (Source: Courtesy of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa)
    Portrait of a woman dressed as a Regimental Sergeant-Major of the NZ Rifle Brigade - Source: Courtesy of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Portrait of an unidentified woman dressed in a soldier's uniform [inscribed O'Brien 6 cab 6 PC] circa 1914-1919. Registration: B.046503. (Source: Courtesy of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa)
    Portrait of an unidentified woman dressed in a soldier's uniform [inscribed O'Brien 6 cab 6 PC] circa 1914-1919. Registration: B.046503. - Source: Courtesy of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

A project to identify soldiers pictured in old photographic plates found in a Wellington studio has unearthed a new mystery.

Historians are perplexed by two images of young women dressed in uniform found among 100-year-old portraits of WW1 soldiers.

Te Papa History Curator Michael Fitzgerald is convinced that the subjects of the two photographs are women.

"Once you look at the hair, the faces, the body shape, the stance.... there's no way they're guys," he said.

One woman, who appears to be in her mid-20s, has donned uniform of a Regimental Sergeant Major of the New Zealand Rifle Brigrade.

"She's drawn the line at wearing army boots," Mr Fitzgerald said of the photo, which is inscribed with the word "Johnson".

The other photo is even more mysterious and only has the name O'Brien etched into the negative.

"Is she some sort of theatrical person, is she having a joke with her boyfriend? What's going on," asks Mr Fitzgerald.

The photographs were among 3000 glass plate negatives found in a cupboard at a Wellington studio.

The search for information about the identities of the 170 Kiwi soldiers in the pictures has so far resulted in more than half being recognised

But historians remain hopeful that someone will recognise the women.

"They're not just dead people on a wall. They're people who led real lives and in some places really complex lives," said Mr Fitzgerald.

Do you know who the women are? Email news@tvnz.co.nz

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