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The E-Sylum (4/23/2017)

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"Short snorters" are banknotes signed by group of people to commemorate an occasion or event; they were common in the WWII era, when military units would all sign to create souvenirs of their time together. Here's an interesting story of one such note from a newspaper in Australia. -Editor

Battle for Bardia Short Snorter

BOILING a billy cost one digger an estimated $60,000 during WW2.

In 1941, Angus Abram Macqueen was in the 2/2 Battalion of the Australian Infantry Force and involved with the capture of the Libyan city of Bardia from the Italian army.

His son Don who still lives on the family property, Woolner's Arm, around 30km north-west of Casino, said the windfall wasn't recognised for it's true value.

"As they were working through the city the platoon came across a great stack of Italian currency as paper notes,” Mr Macqueen said.

"While they were congratulating themselves on their new-found riches, a lieutenant came along and burst their bubble, telling them that since it was Italian money it was worthless and the next best thing then was to boil the billy for a cup of tea, using the cash for fuel.”

Taking the officer's advice, Mr Macqueen's father and his comrades enjoyed a refreshing hot drink.

"My Dad eventually discovered that the Lira they found was still coin of the realm and worth its value and so estimated that their cuppa in Bardia cost them £30,000 ($60,000) which was a fortune in 1941, houses back then cost 500 pounds,” he said.

"But he saved one note, so we have at least one survivor of the battle for Bardia.”

The banknote is signed by some of his comrades-in-arms, many of whom came from the Northern Rivers, along with the area they lived in, Mr Macqueen said.

Signed in ink, as well as Angus Abram Macqueen, the names include AG Wilson Empirevale, HJ Nugent Lismore, Lindsay Merryweather Mullumbimby, Jack Ulrich Ulmara, Pat McGrath, Grant Palmer Griffith, C Grieg Corndale, Jack Young Grafton, Ray Lovett Lismore, MJ Murphy (town name illegible), AH Bairf Lismore, FW Topper, Vic Blaydon, RW Dwyer, JW Heathrington, A Lacey and C Robinson.

To read the complete article, see:
Money to burn during the capture of Bardia (

So what exactly does it mean to "boil a billy"? Here's an explanation from Wikipedia. -Editor

Billycan campfire A billycan is a lightweight cooking pot in the form of a metal bucket commonly used for boiling water, making tea or cooking over a campfire or to carry water. These utensils are more commonly known simply as a billy or occasionally as a billy can (billy tin or billy pot in Canada).

The term billy or billycan is particularly associated with Australian usage, but is also used in New Zealand, Britain and Ireland.

It is widely accepted that the term "billycan" is derived from the large cans used for transporting bouilli or bully beef on Australia-bound ships or during exploration of the outback, which after use were modified for boiling water over a fire;however there is a suggestion that the word may be associated with the Aboriginal billa (meaning water; cf. Billabong).

To boil the billy most often means to make tea. "Billy Tea" is the name of a popular brand of tea long sold in Australian grocers and supermarkets.

To read the complete article, see:
Billycan (

Exaltation of Larks We love words and phrases at The E-Sylum, and I had an amusing conversation about them with reader Roger Siboni at the recent Whitman Baltimore Expo. We'd both enjoyed a book reader Fred Michaelson alerted us to, all about collective phrases in English - a gaggle of geese, a pride of lions, a host of angels, etc. But neither of us old farts could remember the name of the book. "A Something of Larks..." "Yeah, a.. a.., yeah, definitely about Larks" "Oh I know, it was... a.. it was a great book, wasn't it?" Check out the earlier E-Sylum articles for some amusing collective terms in numismatics. -Editor

To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
NOTES FROM E-SYLUM READERS: DECEMBER 8, 2013 : More on Collective Terms in Numismatics (


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