Presentation side drum : Private P L Lawson, Drummer, 4th Victorian Naval Unit and 30th Battalion, AIF

Accession Number RELAWM13622
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Heraldry
Physical description Aluminium, Leather, Rope, Wood
Maker Reynolds & Co
Place made United Kingdom: England, Greater London, London
Date made c 1914
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Military side drum, with plain unpainted aluminium shell (with rivetted vertical seam) and wooden counterhoops top and bottom, both painted in red and black bands with a central white line painted over the black in a wave pattern. The lower portion of the shell carries an adjustable brass snare hook with a fixed mount on the opposite side; a 12 row string snare is attached. Tensioning ropes present - these run over protective nickle-plated brass saddles mounted on both upper and lower counterhoops - there are nine to each counterhoop. The nine buff leather tensioning ears are present - one has been replaced. Both they and the ropes are coated in a whitener, which is powdering. Both upper and lower skins are present and undamaged.

The drum shell is marked in three places. The maker's details are impressed above the snare hooks, and read: '* CLASS A * / REYNOLDS & CO / Challenge / LONDON / A.P. SYKES / MELBOURNE *'. To the left of this is a hand punch-engraved commemoration to 30 Battalion's service which is the height of the shell. The design is crowned by a Rising Sun badge with the legend '30 BATTALION' - below this sits an ovaloid shape, containing the words 'SINAI / EGYPT / FRANCE / BELGIUM / ENGLAND', with the word 'France' in decorative open capitals. Bordering the oval are the additional placenames 'MELBOURNE / SYDNEY / FERRY-POST / CAIRO / ARMENTIERES / ALBERT / BAPAUME / YPRES / MESSINES / AMIENS'. This design is bordered by the dates 1915 1916 1917 1918 and the battles 'FLERBAIX' AND 'BELLICOURT'. The design is completed at the base with four service stripes.

Just to the right of the vertical seam is a hand-engraved decoration which sits at right angles to the other designs. The words 'PRESENTED TO / P. LAWSON / BY VIC. NAVAL UNIT' are bordered by a flower and wreath decoration. Below these are an engraved Sphinx and Pyramids, labelled 'EGYPT', with a floral base; and a map of Australia containing a kangaroo and emu bearing a shield, which holds floral sprays and the word 'AUSTRALIA', above a decorative floral base.

History / Summary

This drum is closely associated with the Victorian Naval Unit, Private Percy L Lawson and the formation of 30th Battalion. When the new volunteer recruits formed up at Seymour Camp, Victoria in May 1915, 'all ex-naval men were asked to take two steps forward. All complying were drafted into what was known as the Victorian Naval Unit and were told that we were to proceed overseas as seamen to man minesweepers,' stated 1133 Private Harold Rogers. The 136 men thus chosen were assigned to the 4th Victorian Naval Unit and were allocated service numbers running consecutively from 1021 to 1157.

It appears, however, that military authorities were at a loss as to how to deploy them, their number being too low to form a complete battalion. They spent some weeks at Seymour before being sent to Broadmeadows Camp, 'still wearing naval rig and still called the Naval Unit.' 1100 Private Percy Lawson noted 'we had no officers and in fact seemed to be in everybody's way'. Lawson, an iron-moulder, professional drummer, Boer War veteran (he had served with 2nd Scottish Horse) and a member of the Royal Australian Naval Reserve, had originally joined up with the Victorian Naval Brass and Military Band at Port Melbourne on 1 July and had been asked by his fellow recruits to be the unit drummer; they raised a collection and sent Lawson off to purchase this drum, which they then presented to him.

At Seymour they spent more time unsure of their future, before being packed off to Liverpool Camp in NSW, arriving there on 28 August. Lawson proudly recalled that 'on arriving there I drummed the boys through the Camp to Headquarters. The OC who took us to Sydney, Captain Dike, returned to Melbourne leaving us to the officials of Liverpool Camp and they decided to hand us over to 30th Battalion, just being formed under Colonel Tom Clark, who turned out to be our best friend. He adopted us and we formed part of that battalion.' In fact, A Company, 30th Battalion was almost entirely populated with ex-members of the Victorian Naval Unit. Private Rogers noted that their arrival at Liverpool was 'unique.. Clad in their blue uniforms and marching with that peculiar gait which marks the seaman, they made a picturesque entry into the camp between long lines of cheering onlookers, the band meanwhile playing "Sons of the Sea". Long after they had shed their navy blue for khaki, they remained a separate entity in the battalion, never completely submerged, and always expressing their own breezy, but nevertheless strong personality.'

During training, Colonel Clark asked Lawson to assist with the formation of a battalion band. This was formed under Bandmaster 1160 Sergeant Leslie C Wellings, later Town Clerk of Manly; indeed, the battalion history (Martin Buckley, 1986, p45) notes that 'many of the bandsmen were former members of the Manly Municipal Band', distinguishing themselves later as stretcher bearers in action in France and initially at Fromelles. Tihirtieth battalion trained and eventually embarked for overseas service aboard the transport HMAT Beltana, which departed Sydney on 9 November 1915.

Private Lawson had members of both the Naval Unit and the 30th Battalion Band sign the drumskin and then sent this drum back to Australia before the battalion left Egypt (see RELAWM13561). Lawson's drum was replaced; and on 10 September 1916, he was detached from 30th Battalion to 5 Division Headquarters (and later, in 1917, 8th Brigade) 'for band duties' and remained detached for the remainder of the war, although still closely associated with his home battalion. He returned to Australia aboard the Devanha where passengers again signed his drumskin (see RELAWM13560). In 1940 he wrote to the Memorial 'I am still drumming and in good form. I only wish I was 10 - 15 years younger, I would be with the second AIF, but as I served in the South African Campaign and the last war, I could not drop my age sufficient to bluff the present officials.'