The Story of a Golden Medal

Published: Wednesday, 1 May 2019 at 12:26:04 PM

Gwalia Medal

The Story of a Golden Medal

Recently, a local gentleman, Mr Ric Van Rhoda, came into the Shire of Leonora’s administration office and donated a gold medal.  The medal had been awarded by the Gwalia Rifle Club to Mr Oscar Johnson in 1910, who had obviously lost it in the vicinity of Leonora, until it was found by Mr Van Rhoda over a hundred years later.  The quality of the medal is amazing, and the records of the standard of shooting at the Gwalia Rifle Club are equally impressive considering the type of rifles, the weather conditions – a quote from the Leonora Miner dated Saturday 30 April 1910 states “the wind at 900 yds was very tricky, varying from 7 to 16 degrees right between shots”, and that the final stage of the shooting competition was “10 shots at 1000yds”. We know that Oscar Johnson won because his name is engraved on the back.

The finder went to great lengths to verify the history of the medal and also the fate of Oscar Johnson. He was wounded in the Dardenelles in 1915, in the naval campaign against Turkey and later died. This ill-fated effort by the British and French forces to take this strategically placed waterway preceded the other great effort at Gallipoli later that year.

So, Oscar Johnson who survived 13 years as a miner at Gwalia, died at 32 years of age, leaving no verifiable descendants, just a medal for his shooting and an acknowledgement from us at this time of the year (I am writing this on the eve of Anzac Day), of his bravery, and our regret that he never returned to Gwalia and to Australia.

The Shire of Leonora would like to thank Mr Ric Van Rhoda for his donation, which will be part of the display at the Gwalia Historic Precinct.


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