Photographing New Zealand’s limbless soldiers of WWI

In 1918, the New Zealand army commissioned photographs of servicemen who had lost limbs during the war. They were taken at Oatlands Park, a hotel close to No 2 New Zealand General Hospital at Walton-on-Thames that had been converted into a hospital for limbless soldiers. Men waited there for their stumps to heal, and artificial limbs to be fitted.

To ensure that these men did not become burdens on government when they returned home, a job training scheme was set up at Oatlands Park. The unknown photographer who recorded the scheme constructed scenes in which even the most physically handicapped were seen to be competent and employable, and successfully overcoming their war wounds. But the soldiers’ forlorn expressions suggest something less positive than this.

Te Papa’s Collections Online – see all Oatlands Park photos