“The Peace of 1919” medalet commemorating the Treaty of Versailles

A century ago, on 28 June 1919, the First World War was formally concluded with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. The document was the first political treaty signed by the Commonwealth of Australia.

As part of peace commemorations, the government issued this medalet – held in the Australian War Memorial collection – to the nation’s school children.

Designed by Victorian sculptor C. Douglas Richardson, “The Peace of 1919” medalet features a symbolic female figure of peace holding a sword and standing on a plinth marked “Peace 1919”, with “Australia” inscribed below. Behind her flies a pair of doves, and at her left and right are two figures freed from their shackles.

The reverse features a central panel surrounded by laurel leaves, surmounted by the King's Crown with the word “Victory” over the rays of the rising sun. A sailor and a soldier stand at ease on either side of the panel on which is cast “The Triumph of Liberty and Justice”.

 

 'The Peace of 1919' medalet

'The Peace of 1919' medalet

The medalets were suspended from a narrow piece of red, white and blue striped cotton ribbon.

An essay by Australia’s first official war correspondent, Charles Bean, was read at the presentations of the medalet. Its opening paragraph read:

It is over. The enormous effort of the men – yes, and women and children – of every decent nation is finished. The last gun has sounded. The last troop-train winds homewards. The last big transports, turned homeward, are punching white foam out of the southern rollers. The vast ammunition factories will presently settle down to enrich the world with peaceful goods. The trains will carry busy passengers and commerce; the big steamers will move about the world with teeming holds; the little trawlers will unship their guns and go forth to their fishing; the earth will become itself again and Australia will settle down to carve out her new and splendid future … We are free to be happy again. Sixty thousand Australians bought us this happiness with their lives.

It is estimated that 1.5 million medalets were issued.

To read more about the Treaty of Versailles, purchase the latest issue of Wartime here.