Commemorative Medallion : Anzac In Eternal Remembrance 1914-18

Accession Number RELAWM14879
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Medallion
Place made Australia
Date made c 1920-1922
Conflict Period 1920-1929
First World War, 1914-1918

Bronze Anzac medallion. The medallion shows, on the obverse, the head and shoulders silhouette of a slouch hatted Australian soldier holding a rifle. In raised letters below the rifle are the words 'ANZAC. IN ETERNAL REMEMBRANCE. 1914-18.' Also present in small raised letters is the name 'DORA OHLFSEN'. On the reverse of the medallion is the raised head and shoulders figure of a woman (representing Australia) placing laurels on the brow of her fallen son. Impressed in small letters near the edge below the woman's hand are the words 'DORA OHLFSEN 1916'.

History / Summary

This medallion was part of a collection of British and foreign war medals and of British and French commemorative medallions and plaques, assembled by the Hon. Sir Thomas Hughes, M.L.C.

The 'Anzac Medallion', as it was generally known, was designed in Rome by expatriate Australian sculptor Dora Ohlfsen (full name Adela Dora Ohlfsen-Bagge), who spent most of her working life in Italy.

Designed in 1916 and originally meant to commemorate and help Anzacs from the Gallipoli campaign, it was later issued in 1919 to cover all Australians and New Zealanders through the war and the date on it was changed to '1914-1918'.

It was produced as a fund raising venture to aid seriously and permanently injured Australian and New Zealand soldiers, and was originally sold in the United Kingdom under the British War Charities Act, with Edward the Prince of Wales, being the first recipient of a medallion. The committee overseeing the production and sale of the medallion, and the management of the funds raised was established in late 1919 and included Sir Charles Wade, Mr Graham Lloyd (London representative of the Sydney Morning Herald) and Generals Birdwood (as a patron, as he could not be practically involved), Monash and Talbot Hobbs. The Anzac Medal Fund was also established in Australia in November 1920, with Sir Charles Rosenthal presiding over the first meeting, which elected Sir Charles Wade as the president.

A card accompanying the medallion read 'in aid of Australians and New Zealanders maimed in the War - 1914-18'. Ohlfsen modelled the female figure representing Australia on the reverse on Miss Alexandra 'Alix' Simpson, who was living in Rome at the time. The charity sales were administered by a committee who included Sir Charles Wade, Sir John Monash, Sir William Birdwood, Sir Talbot Hobbs and F Graham Lloyd.

In November 1920 local papers noted that a portion of the money raised from the sale of the medallions was gifted to some blinded Australian soldiers at St Dunstans, a British charity educating and training blind servicemen.
In the 1920s Ohlfsen became an enthusiast for the Fascist movement in Italy, and produced a large number of works influenced by its ideology, including a medallion of Benito Mussolini in 1922. After the fall of fascism, Ohlfsen was left without work. She was given some assistance by protecting powers during the war but later had to sell some of her possessions.

Her death in Rome in 1948, with her partner of over 50 years, Russian Countess Hélène de Kuegelgen due to gas leak in their apartment studio, was ruled an accident but there was speculation it was suicide.