Historians are calling on the public to find two missing New Zealand Rifle Brigade flags nearly 100 years after they disappeared.

With Anzac Day commemorations approaching, chief historian at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage Neil Atkinson wants the historically significant flags to be found.

The flags, a Union Jack and a silk New Zealand Ensign, were initially presented near Stafford in England and later used at military funerals in New Zealand, Atkinson said.

They were subsequently handed over to the New Zealand National War Memorial Committee in 1936 marking the 21st anniversary of the brigade, but haven't been seen since.


"The flags were presented at the end of the First World War when the brigade left Brocton Camp at Cannock Chase, and a farewell parade was held through the streets of Stafford on May 10, 1919," Atkinson said.

"The flags, a Union Jack and a silk New Zealand Ensign, were presented by Mayor Joseph Rushton at Market Square."

In addition to the flags, historical footage of the initial 1919 Market Square ceremony made by Mr T.J. Everton of Picture House, a representative of Gaumont Ltd, was being sought. Two copies are known to have been made, but the possibility of them still existing is uncertain after one film canister was found empty.

The ongoing search for the flags had been fruitless, Atkinson said, but meetings with New Zealand historian Geoff McMillan, nephew of Rifleman Charles McMillan, were helping to aid their search.

"During the last few years, researchers in New Zealand and England have tried to locate the two flags and a film recording of the 1919 ceremony.

"Geoff McMillan attended the Cannock Chase Anzac Day commemorations in 2015 and met with Staffordshire historians also searching for the current whereabouts of these items."

Atkinson believed connections to New Zealand are strong with a Stafford Shield given to the brigade and a dog collar of a Harlequin Great Dane, the brigade's mascot, having both made their way back to New Zealand.

With Anzac Day approaching he hoped the flags could be found in time for commemorations.


"It's nearly 100 years on and the lack of documentation along with the reality that the flags may have disintegrated or not be distinguishable from the hundreds of flags that arrived back in New Zealand, creates a number of challenges.

"However, we are optimistic."

Atkinson urged anyone who can help find the missing flags to contact the Ministry for Culture and Heritage on info@mch.govt.nz.