Royal Reels: Gambling


Covers from the Australian Philatelic Exhibitions fall into the philatelically contrived items, but this one has the virtue of being addressed to an Australian of some considerable note. The cover has an ‘R6′ Registration label ‘6th AUST. PHILATELIC / EXHIBTN MELB. VIC’, and the blue 3d and red 2d ‘Merino’ stamps are both cancelled with the hexagonal cancel of the Exhibition dated 10 NOV 1934. In addition there are 2 ‘Cinderellas’ of a ‘Rosella’ and a kookaburra applied celebrating the Centenary of Melbourne. The cover is addressed to Mr. A.G. Salisbury, 36 Aberdeen Rd., East Prahran (Figure 1).

A fine example of the hexagonal Exhibition postmark is seen on the reverse, as well as a circular REGISTERED / 3/ 12 NO 34/ 3/ MELBOURNE and a reception postmark of PRAHRAN/ 12 NO 34/ VIC. There is a pencilled notation ‘No Attendance/ 12/11/34′ possibly suggesting that a friend had sent the cover to Mr. Salisbury (Figure 2).

Alfred George ‘Dick’ Salisbury was born at Bowen Park, Queensland, in February 1885. As a young man, he was employed as a bank officer, but devoted much of his time to Militia service, and at the age of 29 he had attained the rank of captain in the 7th (Moreton) Infantry Regiment. Enlisting in the AIF immediately after the First World War commenced, he retained his rank, and was appointed to command ‘A’ Company of 9 Infantry Battalion. The 9 Battalion was the first unit to land at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, and Salisbury, now held the rank of major, and is believed to have been one of the first men ashore.

In the chaos of the landing, despite being wounded himself, he took charge of the battalion when its commanding officer was wounded, and led it through the desperate fighting of the first few days. He retained command of the unit until the end of May, (when the CO returned) and served at Anzac until November, when he was finally evacuated ill. Salisbury returned to 9 Battalion before it moved to France, and he again distinguished himself in the unit’s first major action on the Western Front, at Pozieres in July 1916. For this he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.

The following month he was promoted lieutenant colonel and given command of 50 Battalion, the unit he was to lead for the remainder of the war. The 50 Battalion (part of the 4th Australian Division) played a prominent part in many of the AIF’s pivotal battles, and Salisbury was awarded the French Legion d’honneur in 1917 and a Bar to the DSO in 1918 for his leadership of the night counter attack which secured possession of Villers Bretonneux. In 1919, he was made a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG).

A quiet and unassuming man, ‘Sally’ Salisbury, as he was known to his men, became a sheep farmer in Queensland after the war, but retained his interest in the military. In late 1939, he was appointed to oversee the Northern Command training depots, but the stress of this role and the consequent decline in his health led to his retirement in 1941. He died in Brisbane early the following year from hypertensive renal disease. A painting of A.G.Salisbury in uniform by the official WWI official artist George Bell is seen in Figure 3.

I am indebted to the Australian War Memorial, Canberra for the biography and portrait of this celebrated Australian soldier.

Categories: Armed Forces, Philatelists