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.

Studio portrait of Sergeant E. J. Boyd and family, H2017.74/18

Service record, Edward James Boyd SERN 19008.

Henry James 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.’

Studio portrait of an Australian soldier, possibly James Kent Bird, H2017.74/17

Service record, James Henry Bird, SERN 2465

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.

Studio portrait of John Henry Williams with his wife and baby, H2017.74/28

Service record John Henry Williams SERN 41

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.

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.

Copy portrait of Joseph Francis Pinder, Margaret Pinder and two children Beryl and Lorna, H2018.15/228

Service record Joseph Francis Pinder SERN 1681

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 33 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.
    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.

  5. Hello.

    I’m a descendant of a James Boyd.
    Of Bendigo.

    I also have a few mystery soldier photos..

    • Hello Bindi – thanks for getting in touch. It is a lovely photograph of James with his family. A terrible loss for them all.
      There are lots of World war 1 photographs findable now, but a name usually required. Depending on their uniform – any badges, any medals, battallion markings etc it might be possible to narrow the possibilities down.
      If you’d like to send them in with any information at all that you have, I can have a look for you.
      Jane Miller

  6. Hi Jane,
    I’m interested in the photographs of Vincent Kelly of Bendigo referred to in the article above. Is there a schedule for making these images available online? Also what website they will reside on? Many thanks.
    Mike Jones

    • Hello Mike – we are in the process of moving all our images across to a new system, there is a lot to do with our existing collection, and we are adding content all the time, so there is a queue! We are hoping early next year for the Vincent Kelly photographs.
      They will be findable through our usual catalogue interface, you can chose to limit to pictures and photographs, and then online to get to the images we have uploaded. Is there a family name your are interested in – we have looked at nearly 700 portraits so far.
      Many thanks for your interest!
      Jane Miller

  7. Thanks for responding Jane. I am researching the McCarthy family who ran the Criterion Hotel in Bendigo from 1911 to 1959 (when it closed). There were three sisters Mary, Nora and Agnes involved with the hotel at various times. Their mother Margaret McCarthy (nee Frawley) also lived there. I have obtained from the Bendigo Art Gallery a low resolution image of the McCarthy’s and others standing in front of the hotel c1910s. I’m hoping that this could possibly be one of the images taken by Vincent Kelly. It’s probably a long shot as I believe there were quite a few photographers operating in Bendigo around that time.
    Your assistance is appreciated.
    Mike Jones

    • Hello Mike – thanks for getting back to me – I have had a look at the list of names so far – and no McCarthy’s. I also looked on our catalogue and found this photograph from 1861: ymonds’ Criterion Family Hotel [Bendigo]
      If that is the same hotel, also a diferent name operating.
      I will make a note of the name, and let you know if we come across any McCarthy’s. So far – and I think the whole collection – are studio portraits.
      Regards and all the best with your research, Jane Miller

  8. Jane, many thanks for following up on the McCarthy’s.
    Mike Jones

  9. Hi Jane, I’m wondering if you have come across any photographs with the surname “Herrick” so far?

    • Hello AJ – thanks for getting int ouch – no, we haven’t come across the name Herrick yet – but I will make a note and it might help with deciphering. Are you looking for anyone in particular, or any time period? We mostly seem to have been in the first 3 decades of the 20th century so far – the collection spans the late 1890’s to the 1940’s. We have a bit over 4000 to go – so a Herrick could still be there!
      All the best, Jane

  10. Jacqueline Sutherland

    Hello Jane
    I was delighted to see photos that have been found. My GG was Joseph Pinder. Is it possible to view this photo at the State Library?

    • Hello Jacqueline – thankyou so much for getting in touch! Yes – we can send you PDFs of the images – there is another labelled Pinder that we can send you as well. The images from the Vincent kelly studio are being digitised and will be available online. We can’t give you any firm date on this – as much work still to be done to get collections made available through a new platform. I will send you the images today I hope.
      Again, thanks so much for getting in touch and so glad that you found Joseph.
      Jane Miller

  11. Hello Jane, my brother-in-law is Lawrence Pinder, originally from Bendigo. He is a photographer as was his dad Cliff and two of his brothers, Trevor and Darryl. Trevor was a photographer for, The Herald Sun in Melbourne. In the 90’s Darryl was a photographer in Bendigo.

  12. Pingback: Vincent Kelly and the people of Bendigo at State Library Victoria - Bendigo Historical Society Inc

    • Hello Billy – thankyou for getting in touch – we have a way to go yet – there may be more photographs of the Pinder family still to come. An interesting connection too with photography.

  13. I’ve just found a photograph of a beautiful and well dressed lady name Joyce . She wrote on the photograph “ With Love, Joyce”
    I’m hoping to know if you happen to know anyone named familiar?
    Would love to return the photograph to the family or something.

    • Hello Sophat – thank you for getting in touch – that sounds like a beautiful portrait you have found. Even if we had the extreme good fortune to find a portrait of this person and identify her – then connecting with the family would be another challenging exercise. We come across many photographs of people without exact names or places – and without this information, unfortunately, we can’t locate a family .
      Best wishes

  14. I’am lookinf forward for more posts.

  15. This article provides a captivating journey into the past, offering a wonderful way to touch upon and delve into the depths of the events of that era. The research conducted to unveil the stories behind the glass plate negatives from Vincent Kelly’s studio is truly impressive. The tradition of inscribing names on the glass negatives and the meticulous research that follows bring the experiences of that time vividly to life.

    It’s a captivating piece, well done!

  16. This blog post is an extraordinary journey through history, connecting us to the lives and stories of individuals from a bygone era. The meticulous work of the library team in digitizing and researching the Vincent Kelly glass plate negatives offers a unique window into the personal experiences of these soldiers and their families. It’s fascinating how each photograph, accompanied by detailed research, brings to life the narratives of those who served in the Great War. The blend of photographic artistry with historical documentation creates a powerful and emotive exploration of the past. It’s incredibly moving to read about the personal stories, like those of Edward James Boyd and John Henry Williams, and to consider the impact of war not just on the battlefield but also on the home front.

    • Hello Daha – glad that you enjoyed the post – yes we have found it very moving. researching those in uniform, and their families.
      Best wishes

  17. I’m interested in the photographs of Vincent Kelly of Bendigo referred to in the article above. Is there a schedule for making these images available online? Also what website they will reside on? Many thanks.
    Mike Jones

    • Hello Mike – the images are currently available through our catalogue and you can search the catalogue for any names you are interested in, adding the word kelly to your search, and limiting to pictures. Images are being progressively added to the catalogue, accessible from our website
      Kind regards

  18. coming home from war has never been the same. I’m not talking about psychological traumas at all. thanks for the interesting information about their families.

  19. Hi Jane, I’m wondering if you have come across any photographs with the surname “Herrick” so far?

    • Hello Urlada – no we don’t have any pictures of a Herrick family member. You can search the catalogue for any names you are interested in, adding the word kelly to your search, and limiting to pictures. Images are being progressively added to the catalogue, so possibly in the future, the name will be findable.
      Kind regards

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

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