A presentation of gold medallions to fifteen returned men of Stanley took place on Empire Day, 19 July 1919, at a welcome home held in the crowded town hall. The words ‘Duty done, victory won, welcome home’ were emblazoned above the stage. It was a lively evening of dance and song tempered by the memory of those who did not return from a ‘terrible war that had shaken the world to its very foundations’.
Councillor Spicer proposed that a public meeting be called to discuss the erection of a memorial in Stanley to honour the men and then handed each of them ‘a handsome gold medal, on behalf of the residents’. A proud mother stepped forward to receive a medal on behalf of her soldier son, who was away.
Private William Stagg House Smith was one of the recipients of a medallion that night and perhaps recalled another occasion in October 1916 when he was publically farewelled with the gift of wristlet watch. Between times, he experienced the horrors of the Western Front. In June 1917, a month after he joined the 40th Battalion in action, he was gassed at Messines in Belgium, necessitating hospitalisation and a transfer to England. Having recuperated he rejoined the unit at Neuve Église, France, in January 1918. Five months later he was gassed a second time at Blangy Tronville, France. After three months in hospital he was evacuated to England, where he was stationed at several camps on the Wiltshire Plains. He returned to Australia on the Orsova in January 1919, was married in 1921 to Ellen Davis and made a home at Stanley, and eventually died in Launceston, Tasmania, on 3 March 1963.
The Stanley War Memorial, suggested in 1919, was unveiled on Empire Day 1927.
Money, wrist watches, fountain pens, writing cases and medallions were popular tokens of appreciation to returned men and women from their home communities. The medallions were usually of a patriotic nature and designed to be attached to a fob chain worn on a waistcoat. The presentations of such gifts were usually made at a public welcome home attended by local dignitaries, the clergy, family and friends.
Service Record of private William Stagg House Smith, No. 2396, 40th Battalion: http://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=1793521
‘Soldiers’ Welcome Social’, Circular Head Chronicle, 23 July 1919:
Stanley Discovery Museum & Genealogy Centre
Stanley Tasmania 7331
Phone 03 6458 2091