Jul 012016
 

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. The first day of fighting on 1 July 1916 was the most costly in the history of the British army. By mid-November, when the bloody First World War battle had run its course, more than 1 million men from both sides had been killed or wounded.


The Battle of the Somme refers to a series of battles that took place between 1 July and 18 November 1916, during the First World War, in which more than 1 million men from both sides of No Man’s Land were wounded or killed. During the battles, the British and French armies fought against German troops alongside in the Somme region of northern France in an effort to break the deadlock of trench warfare and restore the fighting to fluid, mobile warfare.

Howitzer

The gun crew of an Australian Howitzer Battery, in an emplacement behind a steep bank near Lavieville in the Somme area. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.

The first day of fighting on 1 July was the most costly day in the history of the British army with almost 60,000 casualties, a third of whom were killed. Despite enormous losses, the offensive continued on for another four and a half months. Australian troops consisting of men who had fought at Gallipoli, as well as new volunteers from home, arriving on the Somme to take part in the fighting from late July.

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King George V, holding telescope, observing the fighting at Pozières from captured ground. The Prince of Wales is behind the King talking to two officers. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.

Australia’s contribution

The Australian contribution to the Somme was the capture and defence of the fighting around Pozières and Mouquet Farm between 23 July and 3 September. Like their British allies, the Australians also suffered great losses with 24,000 casualties, including 6,741 who were killed. Such heavy losses on an all-volunteer army put pressure on the recruiting system and resulted in a referendum for the government to try and introduce conscription. Narrowly defeated at the polls in October 1916, the issue polarized the Australian nation along political, sectarian and class lines. A similar strain was felt in Britain, which was forced to rely on conscription after the bloody battles of 1916.

Memorial

Troops of the 24th Battalion gathered at a memorial erected in memory of members killed at Pozières and Mouquet Farm. Image courtesy Australian War memorial.

The Battle of the Somme resulted in 430,000 British and Dominion causalities, plus 200,000 French troops. Heavy losses were also felt by the German army with 650,000 casualties resulting in a tired and dispirited force that would never fully recover.

The ANZAC Spirit 100th Anniversary Coin Series
Be Worthy Of Them – 2016 1oz Silver Proof Coin

This significant addition to The ANZAC Spirit 100th Anniversary Coin Series depicts a group of soldiers as they charge out of the trenches along the Somme Valley in France and the inscription ‘Be Worthy of Them’.

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The Perth Mint will release no more than 7,500 of these coins, each accompanied by a numbered Certificate of Authenticity.

Australian-War-Memorial-logoThe Australian War Memorial logo is a registered trademark of the
Australian War Memorial TM & © 2016

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Jul 012016
 

Born on this day in 1885, Dorothea Mackellar penned one of Australia’s most widely recited and beloved poems. First published in 1908 when she was just 23, My Country reflected the enormous love Dorothea felt for the Australian landscape.

These Australian rectangle-shaped coins are inscribed with four famous lines that have resonated powerfully with Australian readers for more than 100 years.

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1. A land of sweeping plains
2. Of rugged mountain ranges
3. Of droughts and flooding rains
4. I love her jewel sea

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Jun 092016
 

Donald Fauntleroy Duck is arguably Disney’s second most successful cartoon character. For more than 80 years, audiences have found his mischievous nature and agitated temper tantrums impossibly hard to resist.

The rascal with a heart of gold made his cartoon debut on 9 June 1934 in The Wise Little Hen. Less physically rounded in his early appearances, Donald was introduced in his trademark sailor’s shirt, cap and bow tie. Moreover, he communicated in a unique quacking-style, one of the most recognizable character voices in entertainment history.

By 1937, audience reaction to Donald’s comically irascible personality saw him move from supporting character to star in his own right. Nominated for seven ACADEMY AWARDS® to date, he won an OSCAR® statuette in 1943.

Often accompanied by his adorable nephews – Huey, Dewey, and Louie, love interest Daisy Duck, or his thrifty uncle Scrooge McDuck, Donald became cartoon royalty and one of the best-loved animated characters of all time.

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© Disney

Presenting original and contemporary appearances of Disney’s most famous duck, these 1oz silver coins would delight any Disney cartoon fan.

Limited to a worldwide mintage of 10,000, the Disney – 80th Anniversary of Donald Duck 2014 1oz Silver Proof Coin is presented in a wooden display case which comes in an illustrated shipper featuring an image of Donald in The Wise Little Hen.

With the same limited mintage, the Donald Duck 2014 1oz Silver Proof Coin is housed in a modern perspex case surrounded by film-themed outer packaging illustrating the history of Donald Duck.

Available from The Perth Mint, both coins are issued by New Zealand Mint as legal tender of the South Pacific island nation of Niue.

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Apr 082016
 

The Siege of Tobruk commenced 75 years ago.

A small town on the Libyan coast, Tobruk was central to much of the fighting that took place in the Western Desert during World War II. A key naval outpost due to its location on a sheltered, deep water harbour, Tobruk was vital for the Allies’ defence of Egypt and the Suez Canal.

More than 14,000 men from the Australian 9th Division and the 18th Brigade of the Australian 7th Division, commanded by Lieutenant General Leslie Morshead, together with 12,000 British and Indian troops, held Tobruk until September 1941. Their objective was to prevent German forces from accessing the port, delaying their advance by forcing them to bring their supplies overland, and therefore buying the Allies more time to prepare a defence on the Egyptian frontier.

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Struck from 1oz of 99.9% pure silver in proof quality, this commemorative Australian coin portrays two Australian troops in the trenches during the Siege of Tobruk. No more than 5,000 75th Anniversary of WWII – The Rats of Tobruk coins will be issued.

Surrounded by German and Italian forces, the men of the Tobruk garrison withstood tank attacks, artillery barrages, and daily bombings for eight long months. At no point did they surrender or retreat. Their determination, bravery, and humour, combined with the aggressive tactics of their commanders, became a source of inspiration during some of the war’s darkest days.

As the siege ground on, Nazi propagandist Lord Haw Haw (William Joyce) broadcasting from Berlin, said the Allies were caught like “rats in a trap”. The derisive term was embraced by the Australian troops who took great pride in calling themselves the ‘Rats of Tobruk’.

In September and October, the 9th Australian Division was relieved by the British 70th Division which continued to defend Tobruk until the siege was eventually lifted in December 1941. According to the Australian War Memorial, between 8 April and 25 October 1941, Australian casualties from the 9th Division numbered 749 killed, 1,996 wounded, and 604 prisoners.

The 75th anniversary of the Siege of Tobruk will be commemorated at a national service to be held at 11.00 am on Sunday 10 April 2016, at the Rats of Tobruk Memorial on Anzac Parade  in Canberra.

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Mar 162016
 

This medallion in The Perth Mint historic collection portrays Matthew Flinders, an exceptional navigator and explorer who made remarkable contributions to the European discovery and naming of Australia.

Born on this day (16 March) in 1774, Flinders joined the Royal Navy at the age of 15. Between 1791 and 1793 he served as a midshipman on a voyage to Tahiti under Captain William Bligh, who later became Governor of New South Wales.

Flinders’ first sailed for the colony himself in 1795 where he explored Botany Bay and George’s River with his close friend, George Bass. In 1798/9, the pair famously circumnavigated Van Diemen’s Land in the sloop Norfolk, proving it to be an island. The strait separating the future Tasmania from the mainland was named in honour of Bass and the largest island in Bass Strait would be named Flinders Island.

Flinders-medal

Recognising Flinders’ outstanding abilities, the British Admiralty in 1801 gave him command of Investigator, a 334-ton sloop, in which to chart the whole Australian coastline – large parts of which remained a mystery to European explorers.

In an extraordinary incident while sailing along the unknown southern coast, he sighted the French corvette Le Géographe under Captain Nicolas Baudin. Despite deep hostility between their two nations, Flinders boarded his rival’s vessel where their meeting was reported as cordial. The location is known as Encounter Bay.

Despite Investigator’s increasing unseaworthiness during the epic voyage, Flinders became the first commander to circumnavigate the continent then comprising New South Wales and New Holland.

Subsequently he was subject to extraordinary misfortune. In 1803 he boarded HMS Porpoise under the command of Lieutenant Fowler, bound for England. But the ship grounded and sank on the Great Barrier Reef. With superb skill, Flinders navigated the ship’s cutter 800 miles back to Sydney and arranged for the rescue of the marooned crew.

His second attempt to return home was even more fraught. Once again he found himself in command of a ship in poor condition, making it necessary for the Cumberland to put into the French controlled Isle de France (Mauritius) for repairs. With Britain back at war with her European neighbour, the suspicious French governor thought he was a spy and detained Flinders indefinitely – delaying his journey by more than six years!

Flinders eventually arrived home in 1810 and set to finalising his journal A Voyage to Terra Australis for publication. Ignoring the terms New South Wales and New Holland, he declared a preference for ‘Australia’ so that the whole of the Southern Land could be known by one name in a manner similar to “the names of other the great portions of the earth.”

On 19 July 1814, the day after the book was published, Matthew Flinders died of kidney failure, aged 40. He never knew his recommendation of ‘Australia’ was formally adopted by the Admiralty a decade later after having consistently been used by no less a figure than Governor Macquarie.

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Dec 182015
 

As the winter of 1915 approached in the Dardanelles, it was clear that Allied troops had set out to achieve the impossible.

Battle-hardened Ottoman troops, desperate to defend their homeland, had fought fiercely from the beginning of the Gallipoli campaign. Under the effective command of Colonel Mustafa Kemal, who later became the first president of Turkey, Ottoman forces defeated all Allied attempts to conquer the peninsula’s high ground.

Dogged determination on both sides resulted in horrific casualties. By the time all Allied forces had withdrawn from Gallipoli in January 1916, 120,000 British, 27,000 French, and 28,000 Australians had died, were wounded, evacuated sick and taken prisoner of war. The New Zealanders lost over 7,000, the Indians 4,000, and the small Newfoundland contingent 142. The Ottomans suffered over 174,000 casualties in just eight months of fighting.

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Lemnos, December 1915: Members of the 1st Australian Divisional Signal Company opening Christmas billies and reading letters from home soon after the evacuation from Gallipoli.

The British War Secretary, Field Marshall Lord Horatio Kitchener, visited the Gallipoli battlefield in mid-November where he witnessed first-hand the wretched conditions. Adding misery upon misery, open trenches left soldiers unprotected from the soaking, freezing weather. One hellish storm resulted in the deaths of some 300 hundred British troops who succumbed to illness and more than 16,000 were said to have suffered frostbite and exposure.

Kitchener endorsed a recommendation that the Allies evacuate the Gallipoli peninsula – a complex operation which would require the evacuation of more than 93,000 troops and 5,000 animals along with vast quantities of artillery, ammunition and stores. Despite these challenges, the evacuation was one of the very few Allied successes of the entire campaign.

Christmas miracle

At Anzac Cove, 40,000 men were evacuated under the cover of darkness over a series of consecutive nights, with the final group departing for their transport ships on the 19/20 December. They did everything possible to deceive the enemy that the front line was still being manned.

Miraculously, not a single soldier was killed. Brigadier General Cyril Brudenell White oversaw the evacuation at Anzac Cove – his brilliant plan ran without incident, thankfully aided by a lull in the weather and relatively calm seas.

Instead of facing the immeasurable menace of rifle and machine-gun fire, a rain of grenades and artillery bombardments, some Australian and New Zealand troops celebrated Christmas on the nearby Aegean island of Lemnos, while others spent Christmas in the Egyptian capital of Cairo.

Tempered by the sadness of leaving the dead in ground occupied by the enemy, Christmas billies full of gifts and ‘comforts’ from a number of civilian patriotic organisations in Australia went some way to improve their sorrow. “Luxuries” to cheer the men included tobacco, razor blades, socks, writing paper and a pencil, as well as cake, sauces, pickles, tinned fruit, cocoa, coffee and biscuits. These were all fond reminders of home.

The festive respite was short-lived. Many that survived the terrors of Gallipoli spent the following months reorganising and training in Egypt in preparation for their eventual transfer to the Western Front. Having lost 28,000 men in eight months of fighting on Gallipoli, they came close to losing that number in just eight weeks in France.

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