War and victory medals awarded to KI ANZACS

World War 1 medals awarded to islanders.
World War 1 medals awarded to islanders.
Page 12 The Islander, Thursday March 5, 2015

Page 12 The Islander, Thursday March 5, 2015

Page 12 The Islander, Thursday March 5, 2015

Page 12 The Islander, Thursday March 5, 2015

From information taken from the Australian Defence Force website, the men who left Kangaroo Island to fight in the Great War and at Gallipoli were awarded the 1914-1915 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal.

For the 1914-15 Star Medal, this places them (within the dates specified in the descriptions) in theatres of war across: 

The Western European Theatre, including all operations in France and Belgium; 

The Balkan Theatre - Greek Macedonia, Serbia and Bulgaria, Gallipoli and islands of Aegean Sea;  

The Egyptian Theatre;  

The African Theatre - British East Africa, German East Africa, Rhodesia, Nyasaland, Uganda, and German South- West Africa; 

The Asiatic Theatre, including Mesopotamia, Shaik Said (South-West Arabia), Muscat in Gulf of Oman, Seistan, Tochi Valley, Hafiz Kor, Katlang, Rastam and Swati, Landakai Ridge, Perim, Mastung, in the Kalat State, Kachin Hills and Tsing-Tau; and  

The Australasian Theatre - German New Guinea and Bismarck Archipelago, Nauru and German Samoa.

Medals were despatched several years after the conclusion of WWI (1918), and old war service records indicate correspondence around the three Medals taking place over many years.

Once the soldier or "nearer blood relation" were identified, the Medal would be posted out with a printed receipt and a stamp in the top centre of the receipt identifying which particular Medal was enclosed.

The recipient was to sign, date and have witnessed the receipt and return by "first post" to the Medal Distributing Officer, Keswick Barracks, Adelaide.

In the circumstances where the soldier died, the allocation of awarded Medals was, by necessity, methodical and laborious (particularly by today's modern communication standards).

Often these young men noted their mothers as next of kin. However, under the  "Deceased Soldiers Estates Act 1918" whenthe Australian Imperial Forces were disposing of War Medals these mothers would receive letters outlining that the provisions of their son's will had no bearing upon the distributing of medals unless the mothers were specifically mentioned.

Hence, they were asked to provide further information as to whether there were any "nearer blood relations" than themselves. Medals were handed over in the following order: widow, eldest surviving son, eldest surviving daughter, father, mother, eldest surviving brother, eldest surviving sister, eldest surviving half-brother, eldest surviving half-sister.

The AIF went to great lengths to discover just who should receive the Medals. There are records where the hierarchy mentioned reached the point of a sister being the "nearer blood relation". She was required to be interviewed by local police to establish her identity and a report was submitted to the AIF.

The reverse of the ANZAC Commemorative Medal.

The reverse of the ANZAC Commemorative Medal.

After further numerous exchanges of communication this sister was determined to become the recipient of her brother's medals on "the distinct understanding that they (the Medals) will be preserved with care as memorials of the late soldier, and produced to the Department at any time upon receipt of its demand in writing". If she was agreeable to the conditions, she completed a "bond" before a Justice of the Peace and returned the form to the AIF. Often it could be years after the fact (one example took place in 1922).

In a somewhat heavy-handed manner, the families of these departed soldiers could also receive communications from the Base Records of the AIF (in their quest to find the appropriate recipient of the Medals) along the following lines "I am holding this matter open for 30 days from this date, when if no reply is to hand, it will be accepted that you do not wish to participate in the distribution of the late soldier's war mementos, and they will therefore be placed on the Untraceables List, to be in all probability eventually broken up."

Regarding the ANZAC Commemorative Medallion, in March 1967 then Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Harold Holt, announced that a commemorative medallion and badge were to be issued to surviving members of the Australian Defence Force who served on the Gallipoli Peninsula, or in direct support of the operations from close off shore, at any time during the period from the first Anzac Day in April 1915 to the date of final evacuation in January 1916.

Anzac Commemorative Medallion and Badge

(Prime Minister Holt's statement to the

House of Representatives, March 16, 1967)

"Last March, the Minister for Defence announced that it had been decided by the Australian Government, in consultation with the New Zealand Government, to issue a medallion and lapel badge to the veterans of the Gallipoli Campaign. 

I am glad to be able to announce that arrangements have now been completed for the production of the medallion and the badge. The Minister for the Army will be  arranging distribution to those wishing to receive them as soon as possible.

The Government hopes that production of the medallion and lapel badge will be sufficiently advanced to permit at least some of them to be distributed by Anzac Day.

The medallion (with the name of the recipient inscribed) will be issued to the surviving members of the Australian Defence Force who served on the Gallipoli Peninsula, or in direct support of the operations from close off-shore, at any time during the period from the first Anzac Day in April, 1915 to the date of final evacuation in January, 1916. Next of kin or other entitled persons will be entitled to receive the medallion on behalf of their relatives, if the relative died on active service or has since died.

For surviving members, a lapel badge will also be available for wearing. This will be a replica of the obverse (or front) of the medallion and will be about 1 inch high and 2/3 inch wide - the same size as the RSL badge.

The medallion is the work of Mr. Raymond Ewers, the well-known Australian artist, based on a suggestion by Mr. Eric Garrett, a staff artist with the Department of the Army. It has been endorsed by both the government of New Zealand and ourselves. It will be approximately 3 inches high and 2 inches wide. The obverse of the  medallion depicts Simpson and his donkey carrying a wounded soldier to safety. It will be bordered on the lower half by a laurel wreath above the word ANZAC. The reverse (the back) shows a relief map of Australia and New Zealand superimposed by the Southern Cross. The lower half will be bordered by New Zealand fern leaves. 

The medallion will be cast in bronze and the lapel badge will be metal of a bronze colour."

From The Canberra Times February 17, 1967:

The national secretary of the RSL, Mr AGW Keys, said the RSL approved of the medallion, although they would have preferred a Medal to be awarded to the veterans.

Eligible Soldiers or the relatives could apply with details of service, name, number and unit and addressed to "The Department of the Army, Canberra."

From The Canberra Times May 15, 1967:

The original ANZAC Commemorative Medal featuring Simpson and his donkey.

The original ANZAC Commemorative Medal featuring Simpson and his donkey.

In memory of Simpson

A small medallion, showing the famous Gallipoli partnership of Simpson and his donkey, will be presented to Simpson¡¯s sister by the Governor-General of Australia, Lord Casey, on Tuesday.

Lord Casey will present the medallion to Mrs Anne Simpson-Pearson at a special ceremony at Australia House in London. It was the first struck of hundreds which will be presented to ANZAC veterans and next-of kin by the Australian Government this year."

(Grateful thanks to Melody Berden for her research on the subject of WW1 medals.)