Coin commemorates National Service

By Julian Swallow 24 August 2010
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A new fifty-cent commemorative coin acknowledges the sacrifice of Australia’s drafted servicemen.

THE MORE THAN 287,000 Australian men called up for service in the Army, Navy and Air Force from 1951-1972 have been commemorated in a new 50 cent coin, unveiled today at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

The coin, which marks the 60th anniversary of the introduction of compulsory national service, was laid under a plaque at the recently constructed National Service memorial site, alongside a medal with coloured stripes representing Australia’s Armed Forces. “Now in place for eternity, this commemorative coin honours the role that these young men played in Australia’s history,” says the War Memorial’s Director, Major General Steve Gower.

The coin is engraved with elements of the memorial site, and was designed for the Royal Australian Mint by internationally regarded engraver and sculptor, Wojciech Pietranik.

The Royal Australian Mint’s Graham Smith says that “for three decades, National Service was of incredible significance, ensuring adequate recruitment and training of soldiers for Australia’s Armed Forces,” and that the Mint is proud to commemorate this in a coin.

History of National Service
Compulsory National Service was introduced by the Menzies Government in 1951 in response to concerns arising from political instability and conflict in our region.

There were two separate National Service schemes over its two-decade history. Under the initial 1951-59 scheme, all men over 18 were required by to undertake three months’ training, followed by five years in the armed services reserves. A second scheme was initiated in 1965 in response to conflict between Malaysia and Indonesia in Borneo and the escalating Vietnam War. In this scheme, men aged 20 were selected by ballot for conscription into the Army for two years. Many of these served in Borneo and Vietnam.

Compulsory National Service in Australia ended in 1972, but during that 21-year period, says Hugh Williams from the National Serviceman’s Association of Australia (NSAA), 212 “Nashos” – as they are colloquially known – died in action in Borneo and Vietnam, while another 1500 to 2000 were wounded.

National Servicemen’s Association ‘honoured’

Hugh says that in recent years National Servicemen have been awarded the Commemorative Medal and the Australian Defence Medal, but on the whole have received “very little recognition for having served their country.” He agrees with NSAA National President Major Earle Jennings that the association is “honoured to see servicemen being recognised by this handsome new coin.”

A dedication ceremony to officially open the new memorial will take place on 8 September 2010.