Centenary of the Battle of Fromelles

Following their well-organised withdrawal from the Dardanelles in late 1915, Australia’s Gallipoli veterans recovered in Egypt, before being dispatched to Europe with fresh recruits from home. It was at the Battle of Fromelles in northern France that Aussie diggers got their first taste of action on the Western Front. For many, it would also be their last.

The action at Fromelles was designed as a feint to discourage the Germans from moving troops to the Battle of the Somme. Taking place on the 19th and 20th of July 1916, the battle was advocated and orchestrated by British General Sir Richard Haking. Ultimately known as a ‘butcher’ by the men in the trenches, Haking was representative of the mindset of many British commanders at the time, and their reckless extravagance in the expenditure of life. The Battle of Fromelles would prove a devastating and tragic case-in-point.

Depriving the attack of any hope of surprise, the Allies bombarded enemy positions for many hours during the day of the 19th. At about 5.30pm, Allied troops rushed towards the high-ground held by the Germans. Although they gained some territory, the advancing brigades of the 5th Australian Division met a well-entrenched foe. The shelling had failed to nullify the most important German machine-gun posts, and, with ‘the air thick with bullets, swishing in a flat criss-crossed lattice of death’, hundreds of Australians diggers were scythed down in the blink of an eye. Even the little ground that had been taken was quickly lost, and the Australians suffered heavy casualties while retreating.

Undermined by a lack of preparation, poor planning, ineffective artillery support, and an underestimation of the German defences, the Battle of Fromelles was an unmitigated military disaster from an Allied perspective. Described as a model of how not to attack on the Western Front, and arguably the most telling example of military incompetence in the 1914-18 Great War, the consequences from a human perspective were appalling. The Australians bore the brunt of this ill-conceived operation, and, as one witness said, the Australian line looked like ‘the stock of a thousand butcher shops’. In an operation that even the Germans later assessed as ‘operationally and tactically senseless’, the 5th Australian Division suffered a horrific 5,533 casualties between 5.30pm on the 19th of July and 9am on the 20th of July.

That figure is approximately double the number of casualties suffered on the day of the Gallipoli Landings in April 1915, and around the same number of Australian casualties suffered during the Boer, Korean and Vietnam wars combined. Under these circumstances, it is no surprise that the Australian War Memorial has stated that the Battle of Fromelles represented “the worst 24 hours in Australia’s entire history”.

Whilst a catastrophic debacle, the Battle of Fromelles illustrated the commitment, courage and selflessness so readily exhibited by Australians throughout the First World War. As we contemplate the 100th anniversary of their sacrifice, we must also reflect upon the service of the men and women of the Australian Armed Forces in all conflicts, and give thanks for the free, independent country in which we live as a result of their unstinting efforts.

Proud to play a role in commemorating Australia’s wartime history, and to give every Australian the chance to honour those who have served, Downies has an array of Fromelles and other WWI commemoratives available. Please click here for more information.img839

Downies Auction 320 Prices Realised 321 Consignments

A grand event for Australian numismatics, Downies Australian Coin Auctions Sale 320 was an outstanding success!

Comprising more than 3,500 lots, our last auction for 2015 was highlighted by a number of exquisite English Hammered pieces, which as expected sold well above estimate. We saw nearly a million dollars’ worth of material go under the hammer with 87% of lots sold – once again emphasising our industry leading clearance rates. Prices realised are now available online.

Highlights included:

Lot 2683 - Charles I (1625-1649) Pound, Oxford Mint

Lot 2666 – Charles I Oxford Pound Est. $7,500 – Sold $16,000

Lot 2669

Lot 2669 – Newark Besieged Shilling Est. $1,500 – Sold $2,600

Lot 2687 - Newark Besieged (1645-May 1646) Ninepence 1646 (S3144; N2641)

Lot 2670 – Newark Besieged Ninepence Est. $2,000 – Sold $3,200

Lot 2689 - English Civil War, Pontefract Besieged (June 1648-March 1648/9) Round Shilling 1648

Lot 2672 – Pontefract Besieged Round Shilling Est. $5,000 – Sold $8,000

Lot 2690 - English Civil War, Pontefract Besieged (June 1648-March 1648/9) Octagonal Shilling 1648

Lot 2673 -Pontefract Besieged Octagonal Shilling Est. $5,000 – Sold $8,500

Preparations for our next auction are already well underway. To be held at Box Hill Town Hall in Melbourne on the 3rd and 4th of May 2016, consignments for Sale 321 are now being accepted. Please contact us today to arrange an appointment at our Melbourne head office, at either of our retail stores, or in your home or office. Consignments close early March.

Auction 320 – Featured in the Coin & Banknote Magazine

An advertisement for the upcoming Australian Coin Auctions sale 320 was featured in the September edition of Australasian Coin & Banknote Magazine.