Mystery soldier photographs found in second-hand book

Do you know these people? These photos have been found in a second-hand book.

Do you know these people? These photos have been found in a second-hand book.

It was the last thing Invercargill man Reece Niven expected when he chose a second-hand book.

Out fell an important piece of family history, something that was probably special to someone, he said.

He thinks he picked up the book, which is about sheep farming in New Zealand, from a bin of free books at one of the op shops in town a few weeks ago, he said.

When he was reading it recently, a war portrait with a note which reads "with love, cousin Harvey" and the date "17 JAN 1949" on the back, and a wedding photo with a stamp from Elmwood Studios, Invercargill, on the back.

Niven, who is a book collector, had never come across a find like this, he said.

"I thought 'I need to do something about this'.

"If I lost photos like that, I would want them back. I'd hate to see them destroyed - especially wedding photos."

Niven believed the man in the two photographs could be the same person.

"He looks about 20 in the first picture [the war portrait] and the second, maybe he got married a few years later."

He hoped the memories could be returned to the mystery soldier or his family members.

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He thought the chances of the soldier being alive were slim, which might make the photos even more treasured.

"Someone might want them back in the family," he said.

But with no names or further details, Niven was not sure how to get in contact with the family.

Historian Dr Aaron Fox said the mystery soldier's uniform dated from World War II.

"He is wearing a battledress blouse with Corporal's rank chevrons, his field service cap may have an artillery badge on it, and he has a lanyard over his right shoulder," he said.

Fox could not tell if the soldier was in the New Zealand or British army. 

"The date 1949 is curious - certainly this style of uniform was still being worn in 1949, and if he was a New Zealand soldier this would indicate that he was in the Regular Force."

  • If anyone knows or recognises the people in the photographs, please contact The Southland Times at or, or visit us on the corner of Don and Deveron streets.

 - Stuff


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