Of the more than 60,000 Australian men and women who lost their lives serving in the First World War, more than 46,000 died in France and Belgium. Approximately 11,000 of these have no known grave. Tens of thousands more were wounded, some more than once. For those who survived the Western Front, the sights, sounds, and smells of the battlefield would be remembered for the rest of their lives.
The 2016 1/2oz Silver Proof Three-Coin Set from The ANZAC Spirit 100th Anniversary Coin Series is dedicated to the remembrance of their courage and sacrifice.
Brothers in Arms
More than 1,000 Indigenous Australians, those of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent, served in the First World War. People of non-European descent were initially not permitted to enlist, and Indigenous Australians in particular were excluded. In fact, despite the fact that before the War all Australian males between the ages of 18 and 60 were required to serve in the Militia, those ‘not substantially of European origin’ were exempt.
Many men of non-European descent still managed to enlist however, and as a result it is impossible to say exactly how many Indigenous Australians served in the War. In 1917, as the number of Australian casualties increased, the government relaxed enlistment standards to enable those labelled ‘half-castes’ to join the Australian Imperial Force as long as they could provide certification proving that one of their parents was of European origin.
Those Indigenous Australians successful in their enlistment found that they were almost always accepted without prejudice, and were paid the same as other soldiers. On returning home to Australia after the War, however, they no longer enjoyed the same equality. In areas such as education, employment, and civil liberties, former Indigenous service men and women found that discrimination remained, or indeed had worsened during the War years.
Photographs from the Louis and Antoinette Thuillier collection, uncovered 95 years after the war, include images of Indigenous Australian soldiers alongside their white peers. The coin’s reverse depicts a representation of one of the original Thuillier photographs featuring a white Australian soldier alongside an unknown Indigenous Australian soldier, taken at the Thuillier’s farmhouse in Vignacourt.
Lost But Not Forgotten
On 19 July 1916, Australian soldiers from the 5th Australian Division and soldiers from the 61st British Division attacked a strong German front-line position near the French village of Fromelles. It was the first major battle fought by Australian troops on the Western Front, and was intended as a feint to prevent German troops from moving south to the Somme, where the Allied offensive had begun on 1 July.
The operation failed, and the loss of Australian troops was significant. More than 5,500 Australians became casualties. Almost 2,000 of them were killed in action or died of wounds and some 400 were captured. Fromelles remains one of Australia’s greatest military disasters.
When the battle had ended, the Australians began the grim and dangerous task of recovering the wounded from no man’s land. One of those charged with the recovery effort was Sergeant Simon Fraser, a 40 year old farmer from western Victoria and a member of the 57th Battalion. Shortly after the battle Fraser wrote home, detailing the battle and its aftermath.
For three days Fraser and his fellow soldiers ventured into no man’s land between the German and Allied trenches, searching for and retrieving the wounded troops. As he dragged one man to safety he heard another calling from the trenches, “Don’t forget me cobber.” On reaching safety, Fraser went back into no man’s land to save this second soldier.
The coin’s reverse depicts a representation of Peter Corlett’s 1998 ‘Cobbers’ sculpture of Sergeant Fraser carrying a fallen comrade, which can be visited in the Australian Memorial Park in Fromelles.
Australia’s First Anzac Day
Australia’s first Anzac Day took place on 25 April 1916, one year after the landing of Australian and New Zealand troops on Gallipoli.
The first anniversary was marked by a variety of ceremonies and services held across Australia, a march through London, and services and a sports day in the Australian camp in Egypt. For the remaining years of the War, Anzac Day was used on the home front as an occasion for patriotic rallies and recruiting campaigns, and parades of serving members of the AIF were held in most cities.
Today, Anzac Day is a day on which we remember all Australians lost in war and on operational service. The Anzac spirit embodies the qualities of courage, mateship, and sacrifice demonstrated during the Gallipoli landing. Anzac Day is a time for reflection and, as such, many different services and memorials are held every year across the country.
The coin’s reverse depicts an image of the Roll of Honour at the heart of the Australian War Memorial building in Canberra, which records the names of over 102,000 fallen members of the Australian armed forces.
Limited Mintage & Presentation
No more than 5,000 2016 Three-Coin Sets will be released. Each set is presented in superb display packaging and is accompanied by a booklet containing information and imagery from the Great War, as well as a numbered Certificate of Authenticity.
Subscription With Free Billy Tin Storage Case
A limited number of 2,500 subscriptions are available for collectors who wish to guarantee availability of all five Three-Coin Sets issued between 2015 – 2018. Subscribers will receive a limited edition replica billy tin in which all 15 1/2oz silver coins can be housed.
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