Historical information

This photograph depicts a soldier, credited on the reverse as Fred Foster. The young man is dressed in military attire and is standing tall with a gun beside him. He is located in the Australian bush and the date of the photograph is unknown. Frederick “Fred” Arthur Foster was nephew to famous Bushranger Edward “Ned” Kelly. He was born on the 15th of March 1889 in Forbes, New South Wales. He was the eldest son of Catherine “Kate” Kelly and William Henry “Bricky” Foster. After the death of his mother in October of 1898 from apparent drowning, Foster (then aged 9) was raised by his grandmother Ellen Kelly (née Quinn) at Eleven Mile Creek in Victoria.

On the 29th of June 1915, 26 year old Foster travelled to Melbourne, Victoria and enlisted in the Australian Army. He was a Private in the 17th Infantry Battalion (originally C.Company, 47th battalion). He previously was attached to the 55th Battalion but transferred in 1916. Prior to enlisting in the army, Foster worked as a Bee Keeper and served in the 16th Light Horse regiment at Benalla. Foster had blue eyes, brown hair and was of Presbyterian faith. On the 28th of February 1917, Foster travelled to France aboard SS “Golden Eagle”. He was killed in action in Lagnicourt, France on the 15th of April 1917 at 28 years old.

The Battle in Lagnicourt France, on the Western Front, occurred from the 1st of March to the 30th of April of 1917 and was the location of fierce fighting between Germany and the British Empire. Germany became aware of a weakness they had along the Hindenburg Line, one of these weaknesses was located in Lagnicourt which is a small village in Northern France. Therefore, the Germans decided to launch a counter-attack in this area on the 15th of April at dawn. During this fight, German forces captured several batteries of the 1st Australian Division’s artillery but the Australians led a strong counter-attack by four of their battalions and recaptured the village and most of the guns from the German forces. German forces were forced into a premature withdrawal. This battle was not undertaken in typical WW1 “trench” style warfare. Instead, the battle was up on the ground in what was described as “old open style warfare”. In this battle, slightly more than 1000 casualties were Australian, with 300 of these prisoners of war. German forces suffered a loss of over 2300 casualties with 360 taken captive.

Foster was one of 43 in his regiment who died, 87 were wounded and 51 reported missing. Foster was buried at location in Lagnicourt and whilst the grave was initially marked, it is now unknown. Foster’s service, alongside those who fell at Lagnicourt, is commemorated at the Australian National Memorial in Villers-Bretonneux, France along with other national Australian memorial sites.


Photography played an important part in World War 1. Photographs of men in their military uniforms served as propaganda during the Great War to reassure civilians back at home of the military prowess of their nation and the bravery of their men. It did this while hiding the true horrors which faced the men in battle. These photographs, which includes those taken at home prior to embarking overseas like Fred Foster’s, act as censored memory for those who have lost a loved one at war. It enables families to remember their relatives in their youth and standing proudly rather than having to face the actual danger and horror which faced these men at the front line.

The battle of Lagnicourt France was a victory for the European Empire and therefore, men who lost their lives protecting their countries became heroes and were awarded posthumous medals for their service. Photos of soldiers in their uniforms, were undertaken by men like Foster, so their families would be able to retain their memories and likeness before they embarked for war. Many men were killed or horribly wounded so these images were important for reminding families about their sons/ husbands/ brothers/ cousins and friends.

This photo is a part of the Burke Museum Kelly album which includes numerous photographs relating to the Kelly Gang. As the son of Kate Kelly and William “Bricky” Foster, Fred Foster is an important part of the Kelly story after the execution of Edward “Ned” Kelly which has information it can impart relating to the history of the family after 1880. Whilst an important element of the Kelly Album, Foster’s photograph is also historically important in its own right for its connection to the Great War and the experiences of a soldier at the Western Front.

Physical description

Original sepia rectangular photograph developed on matte photographic paper, unmounted.

Inscriptions & markings


(Top right corner of reverse:) FRED FOSTER/

(Top centre of reverse:) Kate Kelly's son.