In 2016 the Library received a large donation of glass plate negatives from the studio of Bendigo commercial photographer Vincent Kelly. Whilst the Preservation and Digitising teams work on making these thousands of images available online, librarians are busy researching the identity of the people who sat for the studio camera.

Fortunately, this research has been made easier by the studio practice to inscribe the client’s name into the photographic emulsion along the side of the glass negative, as seen below.

The name inscribed on the Boyd family portrait.

Using these names as a starting point, librarians searched across digitised newspapers, electoral rolls, post office directories and genealogical resources. Snippets can help us piece something of a life together – an address, an occupation, mentions in local newspapers.

The Service records digitised by National Archives of Australia can provide information beyond the military – next of kin, place of birth, or a marriage while enlisted. Army uniforms, stripes and badges also help to cross-reference and corroborate sometimes sketchy details.

This Anzac Day we feature images of Bendigo soldiers, and the stories staff uncovered about their war service and family life.


Edward James Boyd
Sergeant Edward James Boyd was from Yass, NSW but his wife, Annie, was born in Bendigo. They had a daughter Jessica, who died in 1912 and three boys; Alec, Gordon and Hugh. Edward enlisted in 1917 as a communications engineer with the 4th Divisional Signal Company, Australia Engineers, and was awarded the Military Medal. He was killed in August 1918. Annie lived in Melbourne with her sons and died in 1929.

Edward and Annie with Alec, Gordon and Hugh Boyd.

Service record Edward James Boyd SERN 19008. National Archives of Australia.


Henry Bird

Sapper Henry James Bird, born in Paynesville, Gippsland worked at the Bendigo butter factory as a cream grader, butter-maker and engine driver for 4 years, before enlisting. Serving in the Second Field Company Engineers he was killed in France on 19 August 1916. His service record contains the transcription of a letter sent to a Sister Bertha in Bendigo (p. 18):

‘Just a few lines to let you know I am well and out of the trenches again, we was only in 4 days and that was long enough.’

Sapper Henry James Bird.

There is also an exchange from his mother Helen Bird, below, writing to the officer in charge at Base Records, querying his death, originally reported as 19 July, in the hope that a letter she received written after that date, meant that her son was still alive.

‘I am naturally very anxious and will be thankful if you will inform me whether you can obtain further information.’

It transpired the original date was incorrect.

Letter from Helen Bird, mother of Henry James Bird. (Service Record, NAA)

John Henry Williams
John Henry Williams was born and lived in Long Gully, near Bendigo. John and his brother Alfred both enlisted, signing up in Eaglehawk. He served at Gallipoli as a sergeant and asked to be reduced to ranks, and a few days later transferred from the 24th Battalion to the 4th company of field engineers, where he became Sapper Williams. The commendation for his Meritorious Service Medal writes of his ‘ability, consistent good work and devotion to duty on the front at the Somme and Flanders fronts’.

The portrait, below, shows John with his new wife Emily, (they were married in Glasgow 28 May 1919), and their baby daughter Paulette Frances. The couple also had two sons – John Patrick and Stanley James.

But a return home from war did not mean normal life resumed. Paulette died in 1922 and John died in June 1930 as a result of mustard gas exposure.

Emily and her two boys were living in Abbotsford Street, West Melbourne at this time. According to the Grylls’ family tree, which we found on Ancestry, she later returned to Ireland with her son John, where she died in 1993.

John and Emily with Paulette  Williams.

Service record John Henry Williams SERN 41. National Archives of Australia.

Joseph Francis Pinder or Thomas Wesley Pinder?
Finally, this below image shows a ‘copy photograph’. Photographic studios often re-photographed prints, thus creating a negative from which new prints could be made.

Here the photograph of a soldier and his family has been pinned up on a board for copying. The photographic studio stamp for Kalma studio, which operated at Pall Mall in Bendigo, is embossed in the lower right hand corner.

Reading in reverse, the clients name is Pinder, and the other annotation reads ‘6 PC’, which we think refers to the quantity and size of prints ordered.

Pinder is not wearing any service badges, so the original photograph was taken around the time of enlistment in January 1915.

We are still uncertain of this soldier’s identity and his relationship to the woman and children pictured with him. There are at least five men called Pinder who give their home address as Bendigo on the embarkation rolls. Only one of them, Joseph Francis Pinder was married at the time of enlistment. His enlistment records gives his age as 26, that he was married and had three children.

Alternatively this photograph could be of Thomas Wesley Pinder, Joseph’s brother, with one of their two older sisters Gertrude (Mrs Masters) or Ethel (Mrs Green) and their children. Thomas, aged 27 and single when he enlisted, was killed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915.

Service record Joseph Francis Pinder SERN 1681. National Archives of Australia.
Service record Thomas Welsey Pinder SERN 831. National Archives of Australia.

We can hardly imagine the huge journey the soldiers made from Vincent Kelly’s photographic studio in Bendigo, complete with backdrops and props, to the very real Great War, and the family and friends they left behind.

Written by Madeleine Say, Picture Librarian and Jane Miller, Librarian Digital Access

 

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This article has 6 comments

  1. Thankyou for these stories of volunteer soldiers. The research and history is fascinating.

  2. Thank you June – it has been amazing to discover some of the stories behind these portraits. Glad you enjoyed reading.

  3. Hello Jane,
    I am writing the history of soldiers on Terang war memorial and some of these were in camp at Bendigo. I am wondering if any of them are featured in your negatives? A list of our soldiers is on our website.
    If you find any matches and would like further details please get in touch.Regards, Margaret.

    • Hello Margaret – thanks for getting in touch. I have the list from the website, it can help to have something to decipher against too!
      Will make a note of your email address and get in touch further.
      Cheers and all the best with your project too.
      Jane Miller

  4. I believe this will be 1681, Joseph Francis PINDER.
    Enlisted 11 JAN 1915, Embarked 17 APR 1915. Therefore photo taken in that period..
    VIC BMD Index shows a Jos PINDER married Margaret Ellen (REGAN) in 1907.
    They had three kids, born Bendigo.
    Josephine in 1908. Therefore 7 years old, probably in school.
    Beryl in 1911. Therefore aged 4yrs. in 1915
    Verna b 1915. A baby. in 1915.
    Cheers
    Bill Clark
    RSL Bendigo Military Museum.

    • Thanks for getting in touch Bill – and for your thoughts on identification of Joseph. I think it does look the most likely. These photograph of these soldiers with their families are made more powerful by being able to read their military records. Our thanks again.

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