The First World War drew millions of people from around the globe into mechanised warfare more deadly than anything seen before.
Antipodeans rushed to the seat of conflict in Europe to do their duty in support of the Mother Country – Great Britain – in her hour of need. Unknown at their time of departure from Western Australia at the end of 1914, the Anzacs were on a date with destiny at Gallipoli, the strategic peninsula overlooking Turkey’s Dardanelles Strait. The bloody campaign is sometimes described as Australia’s ‘coming of age’.
Of the more than 60,000 Australian men and women who lost their lives serving in the First World War, however, 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 Gallipoli, the Western Front and the Middle East theatre, the sights, sounds, and smells of the battlefields would be remembered for the rest of their lives. Ultimately, their involvement helped shape Australian society and our national identity – one founded on courage, mateship, resourcefulness, and egalitarianism.
ANZAC Spirit 100th Anniversary Coin Series
1oz Silver Proof Coins
The Perth Mint’s 1oz silver coins from the ANZAC Spirit 100th Anniversary Series is building into an extraordinary collection portraying key moments in the lives of Australian troops during World War I. Working in conjunction with the Australian War Memorial and drawing inspiration from its extensive archive of historical imagery, each coin provides a fascinating insight into the astonishing mettle of the Anzacs .
The British declaration of war on 4 August 1914 was greeted with widespread enthusiasm and jubilation across the Empire. In Australia, it was a chance for the fledgling nation to prove itself in battle and to rally to the cause. Prime Minister Joseph Cook declared, “Whatever happens, Australia is part of the Empire right to the full. When the Empire is at war, so is Australia at war. All our resources are in the Empire and for the preservation and security of the Empire”.
In April 1915, more than 20,000 men of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzac) were ordered to land on the western side of the Gallipoli peninsula. The ultimate aim of the Gallipoli campaign was to open Russia’s Black Sea ports to the Mediterranean. Even though the eight month campaign was considered a costly military failure, it was from this defeat early in the war that the Anzac legend was born. The Anzacs earned an enduring place in the Australian psyche, creating an incredible story of courage and endurance in the face of death and despair.
The Battle of the Somme occurred between 1 July and 18 November 1916 with more than a million men wounded or killed. Australian troops, Gallipoli veterans and fresh reinforcements, arrived on the Somme in mid-July to support the British attempt to capture the high ground towards the village of Thiepval. Within six weeks the Australians suffered some 24,000 casualties, including more than 6,000 killed.
Australian participation at Ypres began during the Third Battle of Ypres between 31 July and 10 November 1917. Authoritative sources estimated that the combined total of British and Dominion casualties was 310,000 and the Australian forces incurred 38,000 casualties. A decade later, the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing was opened to commemorate 55,000 missing British and Commonwealth soldiers, including 6,000 Australians, who have no known grave.
A final 1oz silver coin in this compelling five-year series will be released by The Perth Mint in 2018.
PRIDE – RESPECT – GRATITUDE
Historical images courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.
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