Feb 022016
 

Australian troops arrived on the Somme in mid-July 1916 and played a major role in the fighting around Pozieres and Mouquet Farm, part of the hugely costly WWI offensive that lasted until November. This month The Perth Mint pays tribute to those who fought and died in this deadly conflagration with a new addition to The ANZAC Spirit 100th Anniversary Coin Series featuring a superbly detailed representation of soldiers charging out of the trenches.

Also in the February Bulletin:

A new addition to the fascinating Australian Posters of World War I silver coin series reflects how artists of the era helped boost funds for the ongoing military effort. The War Bonds release features emotive artwork that was designed to inspire Australians back home to do their part to financially support the War.

The military theme continues with a new WWII release, this time marking the 75th anniversary of the Seige of Tobruk. Australians played a leading role in the defence of the Libyan port city through much of 1941 in the face of an enormous Axis campaign. Derided as ‘rats in a trap’, the troops nevertheless took pride in the slur by which they are famously remembered – the Rats of Tobruk.

Featuring a unique ‘antique’ finish, our latest high relief coin features a national treasure – the kangaroo. Struck from 2oz of pure silver, the detail on this stunning release includes a profusion of native flora.

In quick succession to last month’s Snugglepot & Cuddlepie silver coin, we’re also delighted to present the 100th Anniversary of the Gumnut Babies silver coin featuring another example of May Gibbs’ glorious artwork. This special coin is housed in a limited edition book featuring many of her popular stories.

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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 By the time all Allied forces had withdrawn from Gallipoli in January 1916, 120,000 British, 27,000 French, and 28,000 Australians had died, were wounded, evacuated sick and taken prisoner of war.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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Nov 112015
 

Over the past 100 years, there have been many poignant symbols and phrases that have come to be associated with military loss. One of these is the Fallen Soldier Battle Cross, also known as the Battlefield Cross or Battle Cross, which was believed to have first been used during the American Civil War to mark the location of fallen soldiers on the battlefield. The symbolic cross is made up of the fallen soldier’s rifle, their helmet or hat, and sometimes their boots and dog tags. The cross was created by plunging the bayonet into the ground and placing the deceased man’s headwear over the butt of the weapon.

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The ANZAC Spirit 100th Anniversary Coin Series – Lest We Forget 2015 1 Kilo Silver Proof Coin

Today, the cross is used less as a means of locating the fallen and more as a gesture of respect. It is recognised as a tribute to all soldiers who have lost their lives in battle, and is often used during memorials and military ceremonies.

One of the most famous phrases associated with military loss, ‘their name liveth for evermore’, was a biblical phrase selected by famous British poet and author, Rudyard Kipling, when he was a member of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The original phrase read, ‘Their bodies are buried in peace; but their name liveth for evermore’, with the latter words inscribed over lists of fallen soldiers and Stones of Remembrance in Commonwealth war cemeteries.

The phrase ‘Lest we Forget’ is often added as the final line in the Ode of Remembrance which is taken from Laurence Binyon’s poem For the Fallen, first published in 1914. The Ode of Remembrance is regularly recited at memorial services commemorating the First World War around Australia, including Anzac Day and Remembrance Day.

The The ANZAC Spirit – Lest We Forget 2015 1 Kilo Silver Proof Coin‘s reverse features a coloured image of a Fallen Soldier Battle Cross with the sun rising in the background. The image is framed by a list of words and phrases, and the names of battlefields and cemeteries, associated with the First World War. No more than 500 of these coins will be released.

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Jul 102015
 

MeninGate_LestWeForget

The Perth Mint’s ANZAC Spirit Lest We Forget 1 kilo silver proof coin was presented to the Last Post Association by the Returned and Services League at a memorial event at Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium, on 9 July 2015. The ceremony, which has taken place daily since 1928, included the playing of the Last Post for the 30,000th time. It is the intention of the Last Post Association to perform this traditional final salute to the fallen as an act of homage to Allied soldiers killed during the Great War in perpetuity.

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May 132015
 

Thirty-five Australians flew combat operations in the Battle of Britain during the summer and autumn of 1940. The RAF suffered heavily throughout the campaign, losing more than 500 fighter pilots, of whom at least 10 were Australian.

One such airman was Paterson Clarence Hughes. Born in 1917 at Numeralla, New South Wales, Hughes joined the Royal Australian Air Force at Point Cook in 1936. The following year he sailed for England to take a short service commission in the Royal Air Force.

With the outbreak of war against Nazi Germany in 1939, Hughes became a flight commander at the reformed 234 Squadron which flew a mixture of Blenheims, Battles and Gauntlets until March 1940, when it began receiving Spitfires.

Spitfires
In this legendary aircraft, Hughes proved himself to be a tough, uncompromising and determined fighter pilot, quickly chalking up sufficient victories to be considered a flying ‘ace’.

Hughes used aggressive and dangerous ‘close-in’ tactics which involved getting as near as possible to enemy aircraft before firing. On 7 September, as his squadron dived on a large force of German aircraft, it probably proved fatal for the brave young pilot. As Hughes flew close to a Dornier 17, his Spitfire is thought to have been struck by a large piece of debris from the exploding bomber.

With a tally of at least 14 confirmed, 1 probable, 3 shared and 1 unconfirmed attributed to his total, Hughes was the highest-scoring Australian fighter pilot in the Battle of Britain. For gallantry in flying operations against the enemy, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross on 22 October.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill immortalised the extraordinary accomplishments of skilful and courageous pilots like Pat Hughes in one of his most famous wartime speeches: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

 75th Anniversary of WWII Series – The Battle of Britain 2015 1oz Silver Coin

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The Perth Mint is commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain with a superb release struck from 1oz of 99.9% pure silver. The coin’s reverse portrays representations of another iconic British fighter plane, the Hawker Hurricane.

While the Hurricane was considered less glamorous than the legendary Spitfire, more Hurricanes flew during the period of the Battle than all other British fighters combined, accounting for the highest number of RAF victories. The coin’s reverse shows two Hurricane fighters in cloud above southern England.

Issued as Australian legal tender, no more than 5,000 of these coins will be released, each housed in a display case and illustrated shipper accompanied by a numbered Certificate of Authenticity.

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Apr 172015
 

John Simpson Kirkpatrick – “the man with the donkey” – is one of the most potent symbols of Australian courage and tenacity on Gallipoli.

Simpson was 22 years-old when he landed at dawn on 25 April 1915 tasked as a stretcher-bearer. With the aid of a donkey brought in to carry water, he transported wounded men day and night from the fighting in Monash Valley to the beach on Anzac Cove.

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Private John Simpson in Shrapnel Gully with a wounded soldier on his donkey. [Australian War Memorial – P09300.001]

On the morning of 19 May, just three and a half weeks after his arrival, he died while moving two injured men and was buried on the beach at Hell Spit.

There had been nothing remarkable to mark Simpson as a likely hero. Remembered as independent, witty and warm-hearted, he was a battler – an average bloke with an itinerant background. That he displayed such remarkable bravery and selflessness has made him an essential element of the Gallipoli legacy.

About John Simpson

  • John Simpson Kirkpatrick was born in 1892 in North-East England, and like his father before him, joined the merchant navy.
  • Jumping ship in Newcastle, NSW in 1910, he worked variously as a cane-cutter, station hand, coalminer, gold prospector and seaman on vessels around the Australian coast.
  • During his time in Australia, John wrote home regularly, sending part of his wages to his mother.
  • He enlisted in the Australian Army at Blackboy Hill Camp, Perth, dropping the name Kirkpatrick to avoid questions about his earlier desertion.
  • Private Simpson expected to be sent to England, but departed from Fremantle on 2 November 1914 aboard HMAT Medic, which joined the main troop convoy from Albany en route to Egypt.
  • Simpson loved animals and once on Gallipoli befriended a donkey often remembered as Duffy, although also known as Abdul or Murphy.
  • In the habit of taking breakfast as he strode up Shrapnel Gully in the morning, Simpson also whistled nonchalantly despite the deadly gunfire.
  • At almost the same spot where Major General Sir William Throsby Bridges, the founder of Duntroon, had been fatally shot a few days before, Simpson was killed by a burst of machine-gun fire that hit him in the back.
  • His dutiful donkey escaped unharmed.

In tribute, Colonel (later General) John Monash, Australia’s greatest commander of the First World War, wrote:

“Private Simpson and his little beast earned the admiration of everyone at the upper end of the valley. They worked all day and night throughout the whole period since the landing, and the help rendered to the wounded was invaluable. Simpson knew no fear and moved unconcernedly amid shrapnel and rifle fire, steadily carrying out his self-imposed task day by day, and he frequently earned the applause of the personnel for his many fearless rescues of wounded men from areas subject to rifle and shrapnel fire.”

2015 Gallipoli Stamp and Coin Cover

JohnSimpsonPNCThe Perth Mint and Australia Post are pleased to commemorate Private John Simpson and his donkey on this 2015 Gallipoli Stamp and Coin Cover. As well as a $1 Australian aluminium bronze coin bearing a portrayal of the unassuming hero, it features an official Australia Post 70c stamp with a first day of issue postmark imposed on the shape of a medical cross.

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