Volunteers to a man: an industrial workplace goes to war

Historian article

By Edward Washington, published 26th April 2021

The Royal Mint in Sydney and the First World War

In this article Edward Washington explores how the Royal Mint in Sydney, Australia was affected by the First World War, through the loss of professional staff and the legacy of experiencing conflict.

The Royal Mint, Sydney, which opened in 1855 in response to the Australian gold rushes, was the first ever overseas branch of the Royal Mint, London. By the turn of the twentieth century it was a small industrial workplace with a workforce comprising 18 salaried staff (including the Deputy Master, a superintendent, assayers, clerks and foremen) and 24 workmen on wages (graded as 1st, 2nd and 3rd class).

The Sydney Mint was a sub-branch of the Royal Mint in London, so the establishment employees were ‘imperial civil servants’. There was also a small complement of ‘unestablished’ employees serving in various roles – such as labourers, night watchmen and charwomen. When war broke out in 1914 at least eight of the workmen were eligible to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF), based on their ages of between 19 and 38 (then the range for AIF enlistment)...

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