Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Australia 2016
Centenary of WWI: 1916

ISSUE DATE: 12 April 2016
STAMP SIZE:35 x 35 mm
PRODUCT DESIGN: Andrew Hogg Design
STAMP DESIGN: Andrew Hogg Design

This stamp issue is the third in a series marking the centenary of World War I. It focuses on events of 1916 as they affected Australians on the frontline and at home.

In March 1916, the troops joined allied forces on the Western Front, a system of trenches that stretched 750 kilometres from the Belgian coast through France to the Swiss border. British and French troops had been engaged there since late 1914. The first Australian troops were sent to the comparatively quiet Armentières area, in the north, where they were introduced to trench warfare – represented in the stamp “Arrival on the Western Front”.

Their first major battles were the costly conflicts at Fromelles, in French Flanders, and, soon after, at Pozières and Mouquet Farm, in the Somme valley. “The Somme offensive” stamp shows Australian machine gunners returning from the frontline near Pozières.

During 1916, Grace Wilson – matron on Lemnos in 1915, in Egypt and Britain in 1916, and in Abbeville, France, in 1917 – was awarded the Royal Red Cross, First Class for “distinguished service in the field”. She was also awarded three “Mentioned in Despatches” that year for her outstanding service, and a fourth time in 1918. She was one of around 3,000 Australian nurses to volunteer.


On the home front, news of the massive number of casualties on the frontline led to a decline in voluntary enlistment. Labor Prime Minister Billy Hughes believed more troops was the only way to win the war, and Britain pressured him to commit 5,500 men per month. The vexed question of conscription proved divisive politically, socially and religiously. The first of two referenda was held on 28 October 1916, the second on 20 December 1917. The “no” vote won by a narrow margin in 1916.

Stamp images and description thanks to Australia Post

Australia Post