Certificate of Appreciation

H J Ainsworth - Certificate from Port Melbourne

H J Ainsworth – Certificate from Town of Port Melbourne. PMHPS Collection

In May 1916, Port Melbourne Council decided to give each soldier and sailor of Port Melbourne a certificate commemorating the citizens’ commendation of his patriotism and requested ‘relatives or friends to send to the Town Hall the name, corps, and home residence of every soldier who enlisted from this town‘. Churches, lodges and kindred associations who also asked to forward the details of Port men on their Honour Rolls to the Town Clerk.1

At the Council meeting held on Tuesday 6 June 1916, Councillors resolved to give the first certificate to Recruiting Sergeant F H Greenwood and to ask Mr J Kellett to exhibit it in his window.2 Kellett’s Authorised News Agent, Bookseller and Fancy Goods Dealer was perfectly located at 211 Bay Street (opposite the Port Theatre) to display the certificate.3

The Standard newspaper reported on 1 July 1916 that all soldiers resident in Port Melbourne were invited to the Council meeting the following Tuesday to received certificates of service to be presented by Council on behalf of the ratepayers. The article again urged returned soldiers to forward their details to the Town Clerk, Mr A V Heath, for inscription on the certificates if they had not already done so.  It was noted that there would be one certificate for each soldier and that the embellishments on the certificate were very fine carrying a very strong patriotic sentiment.4

The Council had 1,000 certificates printed and about 20 returned soldiers and sailors were able to attend the Council meeting on Tuesday 6 July 1916 to receive their certificate from the Mayor, Cr A Tucker. Cr J P Crichton, receiving his son’s certificate said ‘that his father fought for liberty under Lalor at Eureka.  If the old gentleman were still alive, he would glory in the knowledge that his soldier grandson was fighting for the same cause.’ 5

You would think that giving certificates to soldiers and sailors from Port would be an uncontroversial exercise but a report on a ruling by Council at the meeting held on 12 September 1916 shows it wasn’t that simple.

At the Council meeting a letter was read from a soldier’s wife ‘complaining that his mother had not given up possession of the certificate, which she obtained from the Town Hall.‘  Council resolved that the mother must return the certificate to the Council so that it can be given to the wife.6

The rest of the report attended to a letter from A Cobbledick of 169 Cruickshank Street wishing to apply for a certificate for Private Rhys Webb who was killed on 8 August 1915.  His family live in England and the certificate would be forwarded to them.  The Town Clerk, Mr Heath informed Council that if the writer of the letter gave the address of the mother of the dead soldier, the certificate would be sent to her.  On 3 February 1917, the Electric Sparks column in the Standard reported that Council had received a letter from Mrs Webb of Prescot, England stating that she had received the certificate with her son’s name with appreciation and thanks.7

Another article in that Standard edition of 3 February 1917 reported on the Council meeting from the previous Tuesday.  All 1,000 certificates had been given out and it was known that there were 30 Port men who had not yet received one and still others who had not yet applied.  The Town Clerk, Mr Heath, explained that 200 additional certificates would cost £12 and 300 £17.  Cr Morris moved that Council purchase 500 additional certificates stating that Port men continued to enlist at a rate of 28 per month.  Cr Tucker seconded the motion which was carried.8

Just a month later, the issue of duplicate certificates was raised at Council.  Cr Gill said that ‘claims for duplicate certificates by people describing themselves as next of kin should be examined closely‘.  It was stated that some people wanting duplicates were willing to pay for them but Councillors were not inclined to approve the idea.9

Another issue came to Council in May 1917.  A Navy man who had enlisted for active service overseas but the navy had accepted him for home service applied for a certificate.  Cr Walter stated that ‘as the certificates were for men who had enlisted and were accepted to go abroad, he would move that the Council inform the applicant that the Council, with regret, decided not to accede to his request‘. Cr Morris pointed out that men rejected from camp were not eligible for a certificate.  Cr Tucker disagreed: ‘This man enlisted, and was accepted for home service.  I am in favour of giving him a certificate. Soldiers and sailors on home service are serving the King’.  The Town Clerk, Mr Heath confirmed that military men on home service had previously been refused when they asked for certificates.  The Motion was carried.10

The matter of duplicate certificates was raised again at the Council meeting held on 18 September 1917.  Council decided to issue a returned soldier a replacement certificate if he returned to Council the original, which he stated had been damaged accidentally.11

Given the number of certificates given out by Port Melbourne Council they are not often seen these days.  Hopefully they remain safe and treasured by the soldiers’ families.

References:

1 1916 ‘CERTIFICATES FOR SOLDIERS.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 27 May, p. 2. , viewed 24 Jan 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article91166580

2 1916 ‘Certificates for Soldiers.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 10 June, p. 2. , viewed 24 Jan 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article91165982

3 1914 ‘Advertising’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 20 June, p. 2. , viewed 24 Jan 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article91165718

4 1916 ‘Certificates for Soldiers.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 1 July, p. 2. , viewed 24 Jan 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article91166008

5 1916 ‘SOLDIERS’ CERTIFICATES.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 8 July, p. 2. , viewed 24 Jan 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article91165139

6 1916 ‘SOLDIERS’ CERTIFICATES.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 16 September, p. 2. , viewed 24 Jan 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article91169185

7 1917 ‘ELECTRIC SPARKS’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 3 February, p. 3. , viewed 24 Jan 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88367250

8 1917 ‘1000 CERTIFICATES GIVEN.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 3 February, p. 3. , viewed 24 Jan 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88367225

9 1917 ‘SOLDIERS’ CERTIFICATES.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 3 March, p. 2. , viewed 24 Jan 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88367786

10 1917 ‘PORT SOLDIERS’ CERTIFICATES.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 19 May, p. 4. , viewed 24 Jan 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88366903

11 1917 ‘PORT TOWN COUNCIL.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 22 September, p. 4. , viewed 24 Jan 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88369177

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