Te Papa has a wonderful collection of 172 portraits on glass plate negatives featuring World War One soldiers. These images were taken at the Berry & Co. photography studio in Wellington between about 1914 and 1919.
The men in these images were about to enter into a life-changing event. Some would survive, a large number would be injured and many would die. The photos, given to family, friends and loved ones as a memento, are now a poignant reminder of the soldier’s youthful vitality, as yet unharmed by the horrors of war.
It has become my responsibility as curator history at Te Papa to research, name and document the soldiers in these images. It is going to be a long and challenging task but one that I am compelled to do and I now feel a huge responsibility to find out who each person is, discover what happened to them during the war and if they survived how their lives panned out. It is equally challenging because I am a novice to this history and all the intricate details associated with military history.
My first clue is a surname written on the negative. The uniforms and badges help to link a name to a rank or unit and then a record on the Auckland War Memorial Museum’s online database Cenotaph and an Archive record. But it is not always clear. Sometimes the names and military regalia don’t match up, or there may be multiple possibilities. And sometimes the negative is not clear enough for me to identify uniform badges.
One mystery I have been working on this week has been an image of a soldier in a World War One military uniform with a bandolier over his left shoulder and riding spurs. His regimental badges indicate that he was in the 25th Reinforcements, New Zealand Field Artillery. Cenotaph has several records for ‘Baigent’ listed, one possibility being Thomas Eustace Baigent who was in the Mounted Rifles Brigade – he would have worn riding spurs – but Thomas was in the 41st Reinforcements. Another was Lawrence Charles Baigent who was in the 25th Reinforcements Medical Corps but it seems unlikely because there are no Medical Corps related badges on the soldier in these photos.
The name Baigent on the negative may relate to the woman in the photograph but all searches have ended without conclusion. So this week, I’m going to end my blog with a mystery and a plea for information. This project needs the help of the community. I’d love to hear from anyone that knows this man or women or can assist with identifying the men, women and children in these photos.
See all the Berry & Co soldier portraits
One of the names I noticed was Brooks (Brookes). My mother in law had a rather named Lisle Brooks (Brookes). His father was named Mark, and think they lived in Karori. Lisle went to Australia at one stage. His marriage failed. H came to live in Auckland in possibly Balmoral and when he died his funeral was held in the Catholic Church in Balmoral. Perhaps this might be of interest, and look forward to your reply.
Thank you Christine – the team will investigate and get back to you by email. We’ve had a great response to the Sunday programme, and have quite a few emails and phone calls to work through, so don’t dispair if it takes us a bit of time to get back to you!
Thanks Christine. We will make a note of this information and keep it on file. The person in the photo with the name Brooks on it has been identified as Vernon Howard Brooks. Here is a link to the image on our Collection Online site:
Maybe try digitalnz.org Lynette. Then see if you can make a visual match to any other Baigent’s on there.
Thank you very much for this information. I’ve now got the Archive record for Ashley Heath Baigent. His record is very faded and difficult to read. It would be great to talk to you as well. Could you email me directly Lynettet@tepapa.govt.nz.
Ashley Heath Baigent ,42970,25th NZFA ,from Takaka,,married Annie Packard? sincetime of attestation..See New Zealand Archives,file online.
Cheers Iain Davidson
Keep up the good work. RSAs may be a source of info as well? Possibly group photos of named soldiers exist in RSAs all over the country. I recently found a pair of glass plate photos of WW1 Austrian soldiers in the Dolomite mountains. Images on glass are pure magic and I’m hooked on them.
Father’s name: MILLER, David Alexander
First w.w War, was at Battle of Passchendale
Seems most of the Baigents are connected to this family of the Nelson/Takaka area.
All of the photos can be viewed via ‘Collections Online’ on the Te Papa Website. The best way to get them all is by searching ‘Berry Soldiers’. I’ll look into other options as well. Thanks.
How about putting all the photos up online with an option for people to suggest possible name underneath….
That should narrow down the choices quickly..
Hi Adele, there is a large well know Baigent family based in Takaka, Nelson. I’ll try your suggestions thanks.
one could put a message out on NZ rootsweb site to find the correct soldier. I have just googled the surname and found a Baigent family came from Windlesham. Surrey. UK. wonder if the correct Baigent..or you could ask Founders Society of NZ for assistance.. they are in Wellington as well..