Oct 272014

In the wake of Britain’s declaration of war on 4 August 1914, the Australian Government promised 20,000 troops to the Empire’s war effort by the end of the year. Infantry and Light Horse units, along with supporting arms, were raised around the country as the young Australian nation rallied to the cause.

Within months, tens of thousands of men were mobilised, most of whom, having sailed from their state capitals, joined a convoy of ships gathering at Albany to take them to the battlefields of the Northern Hemisphere. As the first contingent of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) gathered in King George Sound, they were joined by the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) – creating a joint military formation – the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps – which, within a few months, became known by the acronym Anzac.

Albany, the oldest permanently settled town in the West, with its idyllic inner harbour, sheltered on all sides from the Southern Ocean, was large enough to accommodate the biggest convoy to have ever left Australia. For many of the troops, route marches around the town and its environs were the last time they set foot on Australian soil.

Shrouded in secrecy demanded by military censorship, the convoy’s arrival must have perplexed the residents of the normally quiet town. In the course of a few days, they witnessed the arrival of more than 20,000 men, 8,000 horses and tons of materiel – from tents and provisions to the weapons of war.


The first AIF convoy assembles in King George Sound. (Australian War Memorial PS0078.)

The flotilla of 36 troop transports arrived at the rendezvous between 24 and 28 October. Requisitioned by the Commonwealth, they still bore the insignia of their civilian owners. All that distinguished them from ordinary passenger liners or cargo ships was a large white square near the bow and stern on which the letter ‘A’ and the transport’s number was painted. The New Zealand transports were painted uniform grey, with the letters H.M.N.Z.T. and their number on their sides.

Cruising ceaselessly within and outside the harbour, keeping watch over the crowded vessels was HMAS Melbourne, one of the convoy’s four naval escorts. Nine days after leaving Albany, Melbourne’s sister ship, HMAS Sydney won the Royal Australian Navy’s first victory at sea when she broke away from the fleet and destroyed the hitherto elusive, and very dangerous German raider, SMS Emden.

In the days before departure, amid the feverish preparations, many of the troops went ashore to take part in route marches. The people of Albany thus became the last to see some of the AIF’s original units parade through Australian streets.

Victorian troops passing along the Main Street. (Contact Advertiser Print, Albany to purchase this image.)

The convoy weighed anchor at 5.30am on the fine Spring morning of 1 November. The men were delighted to be on the move again, and over the next three hours the ships moved in single file beyond the sanctuary of the heads. As the ships passed Breaksea Island, the lighthouse keeper’s daughter, Faye Howe, signalled her best wishes to the departing fleet.

The fleet’s flagship and lead transport was HMT Orvieto, carrying 94 officers, 1,345 other ranks and 21 horses. A gap of roughly 800 yards was maintained between each vessel, and the convoy covered an area of ocean some seven and a half miles in length. Their sailing speed was determined by the slowest ship, HMAT Southern, at approximately 10.5 knots.

Two days out of Albany, the ships were joined by the Japanese battlecruiser HIJMS Ibuki and two more transports, HMAT Ascanius, carrying the 11th Infantry Battalion, and HMAT Medic, carrying the 8th Field Artillery Battery, both Western Australian units, and some South Australian troops. They had sailed from Fremantle to meet the convoy at sea.

Life on the troopships consisted of drills, lectures and a degree of boredom. Men on the horse transports spent their days caring for the AIF’s mounts, cleaning out their stalls, and rubbing them down as a substitute for exercise.


HMAT Southern and HMAT Pera following HMT Orvieto out of King George Sound, 1 November 1914. (Australian War Memorial G01542)

The convoy was originally ordered to sail to England via the Suez Canal, but in late October received instructions to sail by way of the Cape of Good Hope. A Dutch revolt in South Africa threatened that country’s government and the Australasian contingents were the only forces able to provide quick reinforcements. But by October 30 the rebels had been defeated, and on the evening before the convoy was due to sail, the Suez route was reinstated.

This last minute decision to stick to the original route was one in a series of circumstances that determined the AIF’s fate. Had the force sailed around the Cape, and disembarked in England, Australians and New Zealanders may never have taken part in the Dardanelles campaign. They may instead, like the Canadians, have been thrown straight into the Western Front fighting. But after the Ottoman Empire’s entry into the war on the side of Germany in November, the force was disembarked for training in Egypt and were available to take part in the assault on the Gallipoli peninsula in April.

At Gallipoli, the AIF earned a lasting place in Australia’s history. The men who fought there have been credited with helping define elements of the national character, and for their part in that historic campaign were honoured for the rest of their lives.

This coin from The Perth Mint’s The ANZAC Spirit 100TH Anniversary Coin Series commemorates 100 years since the departure of Australia’s first convoy of military ships from Albany, Western Australia. Struck from 1/2oz of 99.9% pure silver in proof quality, the coin is issued as Australian legal tender.

The coin’s reverse portrays two ships in the convoy as they set sail from King George Sound in Albany, and a list of the 39 ships that sailed from Albany’s shores.


The Perth Mint will release no more than 1,914 of The ANZAC Spirit 100th Anniversary Coin Series – First Convoy 2014 1/2oz Silver Proof Coin.


Aug 192014

Congratulations to the following people who have won coin prizes in The ANZAC Spirit 100th Anniversary Coin Series competition.

1st prize – The ANZAC Spirit 2014 1/2oz Silver Three-Coin Set and a copy of the Sydney Morning Herald dated the 4 August 1914.

WINNER: Margaret Dachan

2nd prize – The ANZAC Spirit 2014 1oz Silver Proof Coin

WINNERS: Dianne Procopio, James Sharpe, Melicia Mah, Shane Martin

Correct answers to the competition questions were as follows:

  1. Andrew Fisher
  2. German wireless station
  3. Albany

If you are interested in further details about The ANZAC Spirit 100th Anniversary Coin Series, please click here.


Aug 142014

The ANZAC Spirit 100th Anniversary Coin Series launch in Perth was a moving and well-attended event with special guests from the Government, the Australian Defence Force and the Returned and Services League. The unique commemorative coins pay homage to the Australian men and women who served in the First World War, capturing some of the most prominent events in the nation’s history in brilliant 99.99% pure gold and 99.9% pure silver.

Click for details of the 2014 coins.


Aug 112014

The five-year ANZAC Spirit 100th Anniversary Coin Series marks the impact of the First World War on Australia. Commemorating the courage and sacrifice of our diggers, the coin designs and accompanying information provide a chronological narrative of the battles and events which shaped Australia’s wartime experience and its aftermath.

Here is your chance to win superb silver coins from the first year of this important new series:

ANZAC Spirit 2014 silver coins


The ANZAC Spirit 2014 1/2oz Silver Three-Coin Set comprising ‘Answering the Call’, ‘Australia’s First Action’, and ‘Farewell to Family’.

BONUS: Historical copy of the Sydney Morning Herald, dated the 4 August 1914, the day Australia went to War.


The ANZAC Spirit 2014 1oz Silver Proof Coin – ‘When the Empire is at War’.

How to Enter

To take part in the competition, find the answers to the following three questions from the information presented in our Australian Timeline – 1914.


  • Who said: “Australians will stand beside our own to help and defend her to our last man and our last shilling.” ?
  • What did the AN&MEF capture from the Germans at the Battle of Bita Paka?
  • The first troop convoy carrying Australians and New Zealanders to Egypt departed from which Australian port?

Please email your entry to contest@perthmint.com.au by Sunday 17 August 2014 (AWST time). The winning entries will be drawn at random by The Perth Mint and the winners’ names will be announced in a follow-up blog post during the week commencing 18 August.

Click here for full Terms & Conditions.


Aug 042014

BillyA quintessential item of the Australian bush, the billy tin, billy can or plain billy, is a metal cooking pot with a lid and wire handle used on the campfire, especially for making tea.

Contrary to one popularly held belief, the name has nothing to do with the Aboriginal word ‘billabong’ (waterhole). Rather, it is believed, it comes from the Scottish term ‘billy-pot’, meaning cooking utensil.

The term was in use by the first Australian gold rush in 1851, which saw many thousands of men living in makeshift camps surrounding the diggings. Billy tins came came to symbolise the spirit of exploration in the outback, and were frequently referenced in the works of colonial bush poets and writers such as Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson.


Oh there once was a swagman camped in the billabongs,
Under the shade of a Coolibah tree;
And he sang as he looked at the old billy boiling
Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me.

- original first verse by A.B. ‘Banjo’ Paterson.

World War One

During the First World War, the humble billy tin took on added significance. At Christmas 1915, thousands of Australian troops received a billy tin full of ‘comforts’ from back home.

Extracts from The Queenslander newspaper dated 23 October 1915 describing efforts to send billy tins to the front. These activities, often run by The Red Cross and Australian Comforts Fund, were typical across the entire country:
“In a fortnight no fewer than 14,000 billycans have been packed with comforts of various sorts and despatched in some 400 crates for Egypt, there to be distributed among the Queensland soldiers who are doing their duty for their country by fighting its enemies.

Members of 4th Australian Field Ambulance displaying their Christmas billies in January 1916. The men are wearing the lids on their heads. [Australian War Memorial P01116024]

The scheme was organised by Mrs. Spencer Browne (wife of Colonel Spencer Browne, who is now in command of an infantry brigade at the Front), and the co-operation of the “Courier” having been secured, a committee was formed and invitations were broadcast over the country to friends and well-wishers of soldiers to buy billy cans from the committee and return them to the depot in the Courier Building filled for shipment. The response was immediate and enthusiastic. The depot was besieged by applicants for “billies,” who returned them in a few days well filled with tobacco, cigarettes, pipes, pocket knives, tooth brushes, handkerchiefs, nuts, sweets, and a hundred and one other small luxuries dear to the heart of the man on active service.”

The ANZAC Spirit 100th Anniversary Coin Series
2014 1/2oz Silver Proof Three-Coin Set

In recognition of the significance of the Australian billy tin during World War I, The Perth Mint is offering a free replica tin to the first 2,500 collectors who subscribe to our 1/2oz silver proof coin program from the ANZAC Spirit 100th Anniversary Coin Series.

This nostalgic gift, which will be dispatched to subscribers with the 2015 Set, is designed to hold all 15 Australian 1/2oz silver coins issued between 2014 and 2018, providing a stunning alternative means of presenting and protecting the collection.

To discover more about the coins, which tell the story of Australia’s involvement in WWI, and exactly how you can take advantage of this iconic Australian memento, please click here.


Aug 042014

The First World War represented a major turning point for Australia. Despite becoming an independent nation in 1901, the country was still forging its own sense of identity – looking for a place among the world’s most influential nations.

With the outbreak of hostilities, young Australians saw an opportunity to prove themselves on the international stage. Enthusiastic and full of idealism, they rushed to take up arms. But their bravado was misplaced – the crushing reality of World War I was tormenting, brutal and horrific.

The sacrifices of those who departed from Australian shores in 1914 and those that followed in full knowledge of the human carnage, left an indelible mark on the new nation’s psyche. In the troops’ courage, determination, mateship and larrikinism, Australians discovered true pride, infinite respect, eternal gratitude.


One hundred years on, the intensity of those feelings are undiminished. As we remember the fallen, The Perth Mint’s The ANZAC Spirit 100th Anniversary Coin Series represents a timeless embodiment of our pride, respect and gratitude for all those who partook in Australia’s fearful coming-of-age.

The ANZAC Spirit 100th Anniversary Coin Series

Series Overview

The ANZAC Spirit 100th Anniversary Coin Series will be issued annually between 2014 and 2018. In each year of the Series, The Perth Mint will release individual 1oz silver and 1/4oz gold coins portraying major events or themes from the corresponding period 100 years ago. In addition, a 1/2oz Three-Coin Silver Set will be released annually, making a 15-coin collection over five years. Periodically, the Mint will also announce special limited edition feature coins, while the Series will be supported with interesting historical mementos and memorabilia.

Made from 99.99% pure gold or 99.9% pure silver, each coin in The ANZAC Spirit 100th Anniversary Coin Series portrays Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse as a symbol of its Australian legal tender status.

Guide to 2014 Coin Releases:

2014 1oz Silver Proof Coin – When The Empire Is At War
Maximum mintage: 7,500

When-the-Empire-is-at-WarThe 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.

In respect for the sentiment of the time, this superb coin features a symbolic design of a group of soldiers marching under a representation of Britannia holding the British flag. The design includes the inscription of Prime Minister Joseph Cook’s summation of the national mood; “When the Empire is at War, so is Australia at War.” Additonal edge lettering around this coin’s rim comprises the words PRIDE – RESPECT – GRATITUDE.

2014 1/4oz Gold Proof Coin – To Our Last Man
Maximum mintage: 1,000

ToOurLastManThe Australian Imperial Force (AIF) and the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF), who would later become known as the Anzacs, departed familiar soil aboard a large convoy of troopships from King George’s Sound Albany, Western Australia on 1 November 1914.

The beautifully crafted gold coin harks back to these days with the representation of a young boy proudly watching soldiers marching along the Albany coastline with a convoy of ships in the background. The reverse is inscribed with memorable words from Labor leader and soon-to-be Prime Minister Andrew Fisher’s famous declaration “Australians will stand beside our own to help and defend her to our last man and our last shilling.”

2014 1/2oz Silver Proof Three-Coin Set
Maximum mintage: 5,000 sets

Portraying key stories of the War years from an Australian perspective, each coin in this year’s Three-Coin Set has been meticulously researched and crafted to provide a snapshot of this historic period:

Answering The Call

Answering-the-CallWhen news of war broke on 4 August 1914, the Australian Government pledged 20,000 men by the end of the year. Prompted by an enlistment campaign, Australians patriotically rushed to voluntary recruiting offices. By the end of 1914, approximately 50,000 men had enlisted in the AIF.

This coin pays homage to all those men who answered the call, depicting a line of civilian men, a soldier and an engraving of an original attestation paper.

Australia’s First Action

Australias-First-ActionOn 11 September 1914, Australian troops embarked on their first military campaign. Their objective at Bita Paka in German New Guinea was the capture of an enemy wireless station. Sustaining a significant number of casualties, the day-long action nevertheless ended with an Australian victory.

In honour of their bravery, the design of this coin represents a view through the dense jungle to an Australian soldier in action, running past the Bita Paka radio station.

Farewell To Family

Farewell-to-FamilyOn their way to the final departure point in Albany, Australia’s newly enlisted soldiers left to much fanfare from wharves and railway stations across the country. They waved goodbye to their wives, mothers and children, not knowing whether they would ever see them again.

In gratitude of their sacrifice, this coin captures the emotion of those farewells by featuring an Australian soldier saying goodbye to his crying daughter.

Edge lettering around the rim of each coin in the Set comprises the words PRIDE – RESPECT – GRATITUDE.


The ANZAC Spirit Coin Series is presented in superb presentation packaging. In each year, individual 1/4oz gold and 1oz silver coins are accompanied by a numbered Certificate of Authenticity. Each 1/2oz Silver Proof Three-Coin Set is accompanied by a booklet-style numbered Certificate containing information and imagery from the relevant year of the First World War. In 2014, Sets will also be accompanied by a replica page from Tuesday 4 August’s Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.

A limited number of 2,500 subscriptions (download Order Form) are available for collectors who wish to guarantee availability of all five Three-Coin Sets issued between 2014 and 2018. In 2015, subscribers will receive a limited edition replica billy tin in which all 15 1/2oz silver coins can be housed. Subscribers will also receive limited edition replicas of historical items that contribute to the story.