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A small token of a momentous visit

A small token of a momentous visit

A small token of a momentous visit

The medallion and a line drawing from The War Cry showing General William Booth being greeted by a symbolic ‘young Australia’.

By Lindsay Cox

The Salvation Army Museum in Melbourne has on display a small brass medallion commemorating William Booth’s first visit to Australia in September 1891.

It’s the size of a $2 coin and embossed with Booth’s head and the words, ‘General Booth’s visit to Australia Sept 1891’; the medallion’s reverse is plain, and a hole allows for a chain to enable its use as a pendant.

Today’s speedy, comfortable transport and instant communications make it hard for us to conceive of the discomfort of 62-year-old William Booth’s seven-week journey from the United Kingdom to the Colonies, but Booth endured and revisited Australia in 1895, 1899 and finally in 1905 at the age of 76.

To the Australian Salvationists, it was a chance to see their General in person and afford him the type of adulation usually reserved for today’s rock stars. It was also a breath of the ‘old country’ from where most of our early Salvationists hailed.

The War Cry reported at the time: “The sight which greeted the eyes as the steamer made fast to the Queen’s Wharf [in Brisbane] was an extraordinary and, in many respects, a unique exhibition. A crowd of some thousands of persons was in waiting, and between the wharf and the railway arches, thousands more were congregated. Some hundreds of torches showed the line of march already drawn up, and banners and bannerettes, Corps Colours and flags, added brilliancy of effect to the strikingly weird scene.”

There was one remarkable feature about this march, with its more than 1000 soldiers, which, to an outsider, must have appeared almost incredible. Through a pitiless, cheerless afternoon and evening, these soldiers of The Salvation Army had patiently waited four hours with the chilling rain beating down upon them and wholly insensible to creature comforts, were loyally waiting for the arrival of their General to give him a proper Salvationist welcome as soon as he set foot on Australian soil.

Lindsay Cox is the manager of The Salvation Army Australia Museums.


  1. Hello, I am a Salvation Army officer who collects everything about the Salvation Army! I would like to receive such a coin 1891 William Booth for the first time in Australia from you, for my museum. In return, I could give a Salvation Army ascension coin from May 1891 from Switzerland. What do you make of it? With love and God's blessings. Major Severino Ratti

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