Mar 022017
 

Fact File – Battle of Beersheba
  • When did it take place? 31 October 1917.
  • Where is it? Approx 50km southeast of Gaza in the Negev desert.
  • Who fought? Allied forces against the Ottoman Empire supported by Germany.
  • Allied objective? Outflank the Ottoman line defending Gaza.
  • Victors? The allies, after a courageous charge by Australian light horsemen.

Background

After Gallipoli, Australian troops took part in the defence of the Suez Canal in Egypt which was under mounting pressure from the Ottoman attacks from across the Sinai Desert. They pushed out into the Sinai, patrolling the desert and engaging in skirmishes with the Ottomans, and ultimately participated in a British offensive that pursued them across the border into Palestine. Australian, New Zealand, British and Indian troops continued their advance in 1917, with one of their first objectives to capture the Turkish bastion of Gaza.

After two failed attempts to assault Gaza, British efforts shifted to Beersheba, a heavily fortified inland town at the eastern flank of the Ottoman defences. Success would allow the allies to bypass Ottoman forces, thereby undermining the security of Gaza on the coast. Capturing the wells at Beersheba would also bring relief to some 50,000 to 60,000 allied troops and their horses who were in desperate need of water.

Australian contingent

The 4th Light Horse Brigade was formed in March 1915 and served as dismounted infantry on Gallipoli. As mounted infantry, Australian light horse units relied on sturdy, hardy mounts – (New South) Walers – renowned for their indefatigable ability to carry a rider, his rifle, bayonet, ammunition and other equipment for long distances in hot, arid conditions.

lighthorse_on-parade

Troops of the 4th Australian Light Horse Brigade near Tripoli, Lebanon, in December 1918.

The courage shared by the men and their mounts was forever inscribed in the annals of history at Beersheba in Palestine, when in an effort to rout the enemy’s Gaza–Beersheba defences, they undertook a gallant charge against the Ottoman positions.

The battle

The fighting at Beersheba took place at dusk under orders from Lieutenant-General Sir Henry “Harry” Chauvel, the Australian commander of the Desert Mounted Corps. Some 800 Australian mounted infantry from the 4th Light Horse Brigade assembled six kilometres south-east of Beersheba with the 4th Light Horse Regiment on the right, the 12th on the left, and the 11th, who were on detached duty, in reserve.

Armed with their rifles and carrying drawn bayonets, they rode over a ridge and descended down gently sloping ground toward the town, where more than 1,100 Ottomans riflemen, nine field guns and several machine guns lay in wait. The Ottomans opened fire on the light horsemen as they approached and both horses and men were hit by the ensuing fusillade, but the mounted troops rode on, with members of the 4th Regiment dismounting at the trenches to attack the Ottomans on foot, while the 12th Light Horse Regiment succeeded in capturing the town.

charge-at-beersheba

A hand-coloured print sometimes considered to depict the charge of the Light Horse at Beersheba – most probably taken in 1918 during a re-enactment by the official photographer Frank Hurley.

Historic aftermath

Lasting little more than an hour, the momentum of the surprise attack carried the light horsemen through the Ottoman positions. They successfully secured the town and its wells, while taking in excess of 1,000 Ottoman prisoners at the same time. A significant victory for the allies in Palestine, the capture of Beersheba helped British forces penetrate the Gaza–Beersheba line; Gaza fell a week later, abandoned by Ottoman troops who withdrew further into Palestine.

The Australian War Memorial records the names of 31 light horsemen who died at Beersheba on its Roll of Honour. A further 36 were wounded, and at least 70 horses died and dozens more were injured. In spite of these losses, Beersheba was an outstanding success for the Australian Light Horse.

Commemorative gold coin

beersheba-gold-coin

Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Australian’s courageous charge, The Perth Mint has crafted a 2017 tribute coin from 1/4oz of 99.99% pure gold. Depicting a member of the 4th Light Horse Brigade with his horse, the design includes a red poppy and the inscription THOSE MARVELLOUS HORSES.

The coin’s obverse depicts the Ian Rank-Broadley effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the 2017 year-date, and the monetary denomination.

The Perth Mint will release no more than 1,000 of The ANZAC Spirit 100th Anniversary Coin Series –Beersheba 2017 1/4oz Gold Proof Coin.

Australian-War-Memorial-logoThe Australian War Memorial logo is a registered trademark of the
Australian War Memorial TM & © 2017

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Feb 202017
 

Australia has a profound association with Ypres in Belgium. Through this walled medieval city Australian soldiers and thousands of other allied troops marched towards the front line during some of the most costly fighting of the First World War.

ypresclothhall

Reconstructed Cloth Hall, Ieper.

At the centre of the city, they would have passed the historic Cloth Hall, first constructed around 1200. By 1917, this proud symbol of the region’s famous textile trade had been virtually destroyed by German artillery fire.

As they made their way towards the battlefields of the Ypres Salient, the troops passed through the Menin Gate, at which two stone lions, also heavily battle scarred, stood astride the road on silent guard.

Originally commissioned for the ancient Cloth Hall, these magnificent carved blue stone beasts had been relocated to the city’s eastern gateway in 1862. At the end of the war they were pulled from the rubble, and in an important symbolic gesture, the Burgomaster of Ypres presented them to the Australian Government in 1936 as a token of friendship and an acknowledgement of Australia’s sacrifice.

It is estimated that Australia suffered 38,000 casualties in the fighting around Ypres. The names of 6,000 Australians are included among those recorded on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing dedicated to the 55,000 British and Empire troops who died in Belgium during the First World War and have no known grave.

The Menin Gate Lions now have a permanent home inside the entrance to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. There, they stand in abiding honour of those who never returned from Flanders.

awm_lions-from-ypres

Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial – ART12510.001

The ANZAC Spirit 100th Anniversary Coin Series – Many Never Returned
2017 1oz Silver Proof Coin

Inscribed with the words ‘1917 Many Never Returned’, this addition to The Perth Mint’s five year ANZAC Spirit Coin Series bears a design representing war weary Australian soldiers walking near the ruins of the Cloth Hall in Ypres. Expressing the nation’s indebtedness to the men and their fallen comrades, the word GRATITUDE is included on the coin’s serrated edge.

Accompanied by a numbered Certificate of Authenticity, no more than 7,500 of these solemn coins will be released in individual presentation packaging comprising a red and black display case and superbly illustrated shipper.

theanzacspirit2017-silver-proof-coin

Australian-War-Memorial-logoThe Australian War Memorial logo is a registered trademark of the
Australian War Memorial TM & © 2017

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Jan 172017
 

While enduring the horrors of shells, bullets, and gas during World War I, letters from home provided troops with moments of joyful respite. For Australian troops fighting on the other side of the world, letters accompanied by photographs of wives, children, sweethearts and parents brought even greater delight.

wwiposterseries-homefrontTo this end, the Snapshots from Home League of Australia was established in early 1916 by Archibald Pursell, a director of the YMCA (Sydney), who had been inspired by the work of the League’s founding branch in London the previous year.

To meet the objectives of Snapshots, the YMCA distributed application forms to the men at the front, recruited photographers across Australia to donate their time and skills, and coordinated sittings for relatives wishing to send photos to their loved ones serving overseas.

In this way, around 150,000 intimate portraits were able to be sent to active and injured Australian soldiers in Europe and the Middle East during the remaining years of the War.

The YMCA dedicated much energy to making the scheme a success, advertising it in newspapers, magazines, shops, and at its own collection depots. Additionally, it adopted British promotional posters for use in Australia, including this memorable example which is portrayed on the latest addition to our Australian Posters of World War I Coin Series.

Designed by artist Fred Pegram, it captures the poignant moment when an off-duty soldier in battle-scarred France becomes the first in his group to celebrate the arrival of pictures from home. Including the League’s promise “YMCA will supply free of cost”, posters like this one helped make Snapshots one of the most effective First World War campaigns in Australia.

Australian Posters of World War I Coin Series

posters-of-wwi_x4coins

Issued annually between 2014 and 2018, Australian Posters of World War I reflects the large number of posters that were produced during the War to satisfy a wide variety of advertising and communication needs. With the addition of the 2017 Home Front coin, four out of five of these stunning releases are now available:

Limited Mintage

Produced by The Perth Mint in association with the Australian War Memorial, each coin in this outstanding and original series is struck from 1oz of 99.9% pure silver. Issued as Australian legal tender, each encapsulated coin is housed in a latex case which allows the design on both sides to be displayed.

No more than 5,000 of each coin in the series will be released worldwide.


AWM_RedCross_logos

The Australian War Memorial logo is a registered trade mark of the Australian War Memorial TM © 2017.

YMCA logo courtesy of YMCA Australia.

The red cross emblem is an internationally recognised symbol used to identify those providing impartial humanitarian assistance and protect them from harm in times of armed conflict. The use of the emblem is restricted under both international and Australian law in order to ensure that this meaning continues to be understood. In Australia, the use of the emblem without the authorisation of the Minister of Defence is a criminal offence.


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Nov 112016
 

To honour those who have died as a consequence of war, Australians are encouraged to observe one minute’s silence as the clock strikes the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month – the moment the guns fells silent on the Western Front in 1918.

The observance takes place in other Allied countries, including New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and the United States. But how did the tradition originate?

Edward George Honey has been credited as the first person to suggest a period of silence in which to remember the fallen.

Born in St Kilda, Melbourne, Honey was an Australian journalist who worked in Fleet Street after World War I. In May 1919, he wrote to the London Evening News appealing for a five-minute silence to mark the first anniversary of the Armistice.

A few months later, Sir James Percy FitzPatrick suggested to the British Cabinet a complete suspension of normal activity for two minutes during which everyone could focus on reverent remembrance.

King George V responded to Sir James’ call by asking countries of the British Empire “to stand still in solemn remembrance of the dead, who died that the world might be free.”

Armistice Day was renamed Remembrance Day in 1946 to commemorate those who were killed in both World Wars. The custom of a short silence remains integral to Remembrance Day ceremonies throughout the Commonwealth, and in Australia on ANZAC Day.

Honey is recognized in Australia as the originator of the idea on a memorial plaque in central Melbourne, which records “Edward George Honey… A Melbourne journalist who, while living in London, first suggested the solemn ceremony of silence, now observed in all British countries in remembrance of those who died in war”.

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

The emblem and logo of the Returned & Services League of Australia Limited (RSL) are owned by the RSL and may only be used with the written consent of the RSL.

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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.

GeorgeV

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’.

BeWorthyOfThem_Somme1916

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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Apr 262016
 

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

Brothers_in_ArmsMore 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

Lost_But_Not_ForgottenOn 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

Australias_First_Anzac_DayAustralia’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.

TheANZACSpirit-100thAnniversaryCoinSeries-1_2oz-Silver-Proof-3-CoinSet-InTray

Subscription With Free Billy Tin Storage Case

Billy_Tin_thmbA 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.

Previous releases:

Download your Subscription Order Form.

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

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